An animal rescuer in the UAE has called for action to stop attacks on stray cats after recording six incidents of animals being shot.
Fawaz Kanaan rescued two animals in Dubai that had been shot, and over the past two weeks was sent details of four cats in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that had metal air gun pellets lodged in their body.
In one case in the UAE capital, the animal died despite efforts by vets to save her, while the other cats recovered after what was in some cases hazardous surgery to remove the pellets.
Mr Kanaan, who has been rescuing and rehoming street cats in the UAE for many years, is collating details of the incidents to highlight the problem.
“It’s really out of control at the moment,” he said.
“It’s easy to get these weapons. They’re having fun, these children – they’re just shooting everything.
“If we keep quiet, no one will know about it. We must spread the word … it’s happening a lot. It looks like children are telling other children.”
The incidents took place over the past three months, with the most recent two weeks ago.
An X-ray revealed that one of the cats Mr Kanaan rescued had a pellet lodged near its spine. A veterinary surgeon gave a warning that an operation was risky, but Mr Kanaan asked for the procedure to go ahead and the cat recovered.
A black-and-white cat in Dubai was shot in one of its front legs, while a white cat, also in Dubai, was found with a pellet in its chest.
In total, Mr Kanaan knows of 12 cats in the UAE that have been shot this year, 22 last year, 17 in 2019 and 12 in 2018, although he said there were probably many similar incidents that went unreported.
“Animals cannot express themselves,” he said. “They just sit and wait for their fate to die slowly or someone finds them and takes them to be treated."
Judge Ahmed Ibrahim Saif, head of the Dubai Civil Court and former chief justice of Dubai's criminal courts, said he could not comment on individual incidents, but said law enforcement, the community and families have a role to play in preventing such abuses.
He said: “What kind of pleasure or benefit does anyone get from doing something like this? Nothing. The person doing something like this is unstable.
“When Dubai's Ruler tweeted about the famous cat rescue a few weeks ago and asked help to identify the kind men who did it, he was sending out a message, merciful behaviour is rewarded just like how wrongdoing is punishable.
"Families have a role in this too by showing mercy to all beings in front of their children and talking to them about it. Because we pick up qualities from our families before we do from schools and our larger community.
"There are laws against animal cruelty but even before the law came, we had our religion that not only prohibited such acts against animals, but against any living being."
Amid the recent spate of attacks, the Italian-based International Organisation for Animal Protection has posted online that "more and more cases of animal cruelty have been reported."
The organisation this month wrote: “Stray cats die from the wounds caused by pellets, while others arrive at the vet severely injured after being shot with no reason, even by children.
“Some others have their tails cut off because people can’t stand strays."
Among previous incidents, the Stray Dogs Centre UAQ this year offered a Dh10,000 ($2,722) reward to find the abuser after a dog, called Roman by rescuers, who had its front paw chopped off in what was described as a “heinous” act of cruelty. Another dog in the area suffered cuts that were thought to have been caused deliberately.
As well as contacting police, members of the public can report incidents of animal cruelty using an online portal set up by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Punishments including fines can be given to individuals who have been cruel to animals.