Dubai volunteer sells property to keep animal shelter alive

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“There is always the question whether there will be enough money for the month to come,” says Jackie Ratcliffe, chairperson of K9 Friends in Dubai.

As one of the animal welfare organisations in Dubai, K9 Friends operates on a non-profit basis and has been able to do so since 1988.

The cost of keeping dogs or other animals can be very high.

This often hits animal welfare volunteers who are willing to go to the bitter end to look after stray animals in the emirate.

Montserrat Martin, founder of Friends of Animals in Dubai, knows this more than anyone else.

Having operated on a volunteer basis since 2009, she is carrying on with the money she made by selling off her property, but this sum will be depleted soon.

“I used to have my own company. But I got distracted by seeing cruelties to animals. I started losing big clients, so I decided to close down my company and sell my property.

I have been able to survive on this money, but I think I can do it for two more years only and then the money will be gone,” Montserrat says.

K9 looks after more than 100 dogs. There is a waiting list for the kennel, and this list grows at the same rate as they find new owners for the kennel’s dogs.

“We need about Dh375,000 per year to keep the kennel running,” tells Jackie.

“The main cost is for neutering; we neuter every dog we receive.

“Then we vaccinate the dogs and microchip them. We get some discount at the vet, but we do need to pay.”

Besides the costs of the vet, the dogs need to be fed, and the premises need to be maintained.

There are three employees on payroll to look after the dogs; the rest of the work is done by a group of volunteers.

“Luckily, the municipality has granted us the kennel. We are very grateful for that.

“But there are a lot of costs after having such a kennel,” says Jackie. “And the dog population is increasing year after year.”

Both K9 Friends and Friends of Animals are listed as businesses and not as charities. This means that explicitly asking for money is not an option, and so they rely on donations, explains Montserrat.

Jackie says: “We do sponsor walks and sales and we are represented at the annual dog show. We receive donations for the dogs when they are fostered. We raise what we need but not more. Luckily, we have been able to sustain ourselves so far.”

Montserrat has adopted a different approach. “Since technology is an important part of our lives, I have included it in my work. I try to find foster homes for the stray animals I come across by using social media. When people see stray animals they want to help, they can contact me and I will try to do everything to support the initiative,” she says.

For Montserrat, operating on a volunteer basis has not only affected the work she is doing, but also her personal life. “I sit in front of my computer 16-17 hours a day. When friends ask me if I want to go out with them on weekends, I have to say no because I cannot afford it.

Not a lot of people understand this.

“Sometimes I do not know why I am doing this. I must be a fool to be doing this instead of making money, but I cannot bear cruelty to animals. I know I cannot change the world overnight, but I hope something will change in Dubai,” says Montserrat.

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