Animal rescuers have called for an official programme to neuter stray animals following reports of an increase in the number of strays.
Volunteers said that rising costs made it harder for them to continue their work to sterilise strays.
One resident who has rescued many cats suggested that a modest tax on visas could fund a network of animal shelters.
Fawaz Kanaan, a Dubai resident who rescues and treats stray cats, said his efforts had become “more difficult because so many new cats are around”.
“I used to spay and neuter more than three cats a week. No one is donating like before and vets are increasing the price. My TNR [trap, neuter, return] campaign is on hold,” he said.
“There’s no control of these strays at all. The numbers are increasing daily.”
Calls have regularly been made for an official state-funded TNR campaign, as such initiatives are widely regarded as the most humane and effective approach to managing stray animal populations as they prevent the numbers of strays from increasing.
By contrast, putting cats and other strays to sleep is often seen as ineffective because other animals move into the area.
Rescuer Aileen Velazquez, who lives in Ajman, said she had seen an increase in the number of stray cats being deliberately attacked. She is often called to rescue cats, many of them injured.
“This is a very important subject. Here in Ajman, especially in Nuaimia 3 [neighbourhood], I get many cases of cats being dumped, mutilated and left on the streets to die,” she said.
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“At the moment I have around 60 cats, with one room full of special needs cats, and many cages of cats under medication.”
Special needs cats include animals that have lost eyes or had limbs amputated. Rescuing, treating and looking after so many animals is, she said, “very stressful”.
Sarah Provenzani, a 24-year-old Ras Al Khaimah resident, who has rescued a number of cats, has suggested that a levy on residence visas could fund a network of shelters across the country.
Ms Provenzani said the suggested tax, Dh10 on a two-year visa and Dh15 on a three-year visa, was less than the price of a coffee.
“It’s a very, very cheap amount that would change the life of these animals,” she said. “It’s just Dh5 per year added to the cost of a visa.
“The idea would be that every rescuer or volunteer could bring an animal for free and the centre would take care of the animal.”
Treatment at the centres would be cheaper than at private clinics, which would be helped by asking veterinary students to assist with care.
It was appropriate that overseas residents or their employers should contribute to the fund because, Ms Provenzani said, part of the stray animal problem is because often residents dump pets when they leave the country.
Ms Provenzani, a marketing student from Italy, has also developed a website, petmergency.org, for people to post details of stray animals in need of help.
The site aims to include a GPS function so that people could locate an animal they were looking to assist. Work on the site began a few months ago, and Ms Provenzani is continuing to optimise it before hopefully making it live.
Ms Provenzani, who moved to the UAE in 2019, six years after her father, David, an honorary professor at Amity University in Dubai, came to the country, has eight rescue cats, including Gordon, a tabby who resembles the Arabian wildcat or Gordon’s wildcat.
“Once I adopted them, I realised they’re so similar to babies,” Ms Provenzani said. “They’re so cute, they need love, they need care.”