Summer of death for UAE pets: owners abandon, care homes full

Foster homes, animal care organisations complain of unsustainable number of requests during summer months

Pet shelters complain of too many requests, and pet owners do not find last-minute shelter for their pet. The pet is left as the innocent victim.

In a country where most of its residents are temporary inhabitants, everything comes and goes. This applies to furniture, cars, jobs and even friends. Sadly, it also applies to pets.

It is not uncommon for expats to house a pet. They are far away from their country and family, and might be helped with a little friend in the house. In fact, pet shop owners see most customers being expatriates. Especially western expats seem to be fond of having a pet.

Cats and dogs are the most loved ones. But very often the love is not everlasting. Many cats and dogs are reported to be abandoned every summer, when pet owners go on their annual leave or worse; leave the UAE forever. The once cherished creatures are now left on the road side, in the wild or locked in the empty apartment, left to fate.

Not always is it cruelty. "When expats relocate, they mostly try to find a foster home or someone to adopt their pet. However, charity organisations cannot just foster every pet, or find a new home within a certain time frame," tells Lesley Tailor, a member of Animal Welfare Al Ain.

Foster homes and animal care organisations complain of an unsustainable number of requests during the summer months.

Especially cats seem to need new homes, but there are by far enough homes for the stragglers.

"It is just incredible. I cannot possibly keep up with the number of phone calls I receive. I have decided to switch off my phone, because there is no way I can help all these people," says Lissie, who works for Feline Friends.

Ayesha Kelaif, who is working to establish the Dubai Animal Rescue Centre and currently hosts 260 animals in her private villa complains of the same. "I receive about 8 to 10 phone calls a day, from people who want to leave the country and find a shelter for their pet. But I cannot host anymore pets, I have only the space of a private villa," she says.

But finding a new home is not as easy as it may sound, and not always can these organisations shelter the pets themselves. Most organisations function as a mediator, trying to find new shelter for the pet. But on a short time notice this proves difficult.

"Especially in summer there are already fewer people around, and the number of pets in need of a new home increases. It is very hard to find a new shelter, and often it is impossible," says Lissie.

"Ideally, people should start looking for a new home for their pet at least six months in advance," says Lesley. "Instead, they start doing this only a couple of weeks before their departure."

Indeed, a six-month preparation time for relocation of the pet is not something many pet owners bear in mind. "I do not even plan my trip that far in advance, let alone the relocation of my pet," says S. Kumar, who has a dog and travels regularly to India.

RD, the happy owner of a cat found difficulty too when she suddenly planned to visit her relatives in her home country India.
"I always had in mind that my cat would find a happy summer retreat at my brother-in-law's. But I never knew that his daughter had an allergy for cats. I had to find an alternative last-minute, and ended up bringing my cat to a shelter where it was seriously mistreated."

In response to the high demand of temporarily pet addresses UAE has seen an increase in facilities, ranging from simple shelters to five star pet hotels. But not everybody might be able to afford these facilities.

"I think money does play a role, says Lesley, also when it comes to relocating a pet."Many people get the paperwork done by a third party, because it is a time consuming procedure. These third parties might ask Dh3,000. It will only cost you Dh400 when you do it yourself."

A much cheaper option is then to look for a loving family eager to adopt the pet. But when no such family can be found, pet owners might find themselves out of options, while the travel arrangements have already been made.

"A lot of people are unrealistic and ignorant,” says Lesley frustratingly. "They do not think the situation through, and then they leave their pet ends up on the street. Last year we found a dog abandoned in an empty apartment!"

Although ignorance might more often be the case than intentional cruelty, the high number of requests for pet adoption received by organisations and found on social media sites and classifieds pages clearly shows the severity of the problem. Meanwhile, it is the pet that suffers most. 



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