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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 August 2018

Pets dumped in their thousands, say animal welfare workers

Dogs and cats ‘fall victim to consumer society attitudes’.
Debbie Lawson, of the Middle East Animal Foundation, with Jenga. The dog was found with a gunshot wound and is now in foster care. Ms Lawson and her group are trying to create awareness about the plight of abandoned animals in the UAE. Reem Mohammed / The National
Debbie Lawson, of the Middle East Animal Foundation, with Jenga. The dog was found with a gunshot wound and is now in foster care. Ms Lawson and her group are trying to create awareness about the plight of abandoned animals in the UAE. Reem Mohammed / The National

DUBAI // Animal welfare workers say pets are regarded as disposable goods, and warn that attitude has led to huge numbers of dumped cats and dogs.

“It is a scourge of a consumer society,” said Debbie Lawson, of the Middle East Animal Foundation. “We see something and want it now, and it is the same with animals.

“People, especially children, see cute cats and dogs and they want it but they don’t think long-term – and the animals are suffering.” Mrs Lawson, from the UK, said the problem was made worse by transient expatriates who thought nothing of buying a pet and then abandoning it.

“Some of them are only here for a short while, while cats and dogs live to between 10 and 20 years,” she said.

She said there had been an exponential rise in abandoned animals over the past few years.

“It was always bad but now it is chronic. We are drowning in abandoned animals.”

Sarita Harding, a volunteer with Animal Action UAE, said there were “several thousand” pets across the UAE looking for new homes.

Jackie Ratcliffe, chairwoman of the K9 Friends dog shelter in Dubai, said pets were the latest victims of a throwaway society.

“We live in the now,” Ms Ratcliffe said. “A lack of planning for the future and not looking at the long term with animals is an issue. This is how K9 Friends ends up with most of its dogs.

She said she knew of many cases where people moved out of their homes leaving their pets locked in an empty flat or villa.

“We have had several estate agents who have called us as they found the animals inside when they took new people around to show them properties,” Ms Ratcliffe said.

She said that despite the law against abandoning animals, people dumped them knowing there was little risk of fines.

Lesley Muncey, chairwoman of Feline Friends, said animal abandonment was now the worst she had seen in her 10 years with the organisation.

“When people leave they will take their furniture, their TV – these items are not disposable,” Ms Muncey said. “But the cat is because it is going to cost so much to take abroad. It is heartbreaking.”

She said making travel arrangements for pets was often the “last thing on people’s mind” when it came to leaving the country, and animals were simply dumped on the street to fend for themselves.

Kay Ivanova, founder of 38 Smiles, a Dubai cat and dog rescue and adoption organisation, said: “The transitional mentality of people in Dubai is incredible. It is like your sofa or your fridge. That is how people think.

“It is sad because these are expats that come from Europe or the United States and they know very well about animal welfare, but they change a lot when they come here.”

Ms Lawson said more public campaigns would encourage people not to adopt or buy a pet on a whim.

“And if they do want a pet, foster,” she said. “You can have a real-life try out and see if you are ready.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae

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