More effort is needed to teach young people in the UAE to respect animals, a campaigner has said, following a worrying spate of cats being shot with air rifles.
Manal Al Mansoori, of the Yanni animal welfare group in Dubai, said she was hearing of at least one shooting case a month, but fears the true total is far higher. Teenage boys, she said, were often the culprits.
She spoke out as she is searching for a new home for one victim, Bruno, who miraculously survived a shooting in 2016. He was adopted by a family, and was happy after making a good recovery, but he has now fallen into a depression after the owners gave him up due to the arrival of a baby.
The case also highlights another problem in the UAE, she said, of animals being left abandoned after being given up by a family because they move home or for other reasons.
“There are many [shooting] incidents, at least once a month, this is the minimum we know about,” Ms Al Mansoori said. “But there will be other cases that we don’t hear about, and cats are suffering because of it. And it’s a risk to the community itself because if someone is violent enough to shoot a cat, he may progress enough to do it with people.
The government has recently taken tough action against the neglect and abuse of animals, setting out in December nine articles and even threatening abusers with jail terms.
But Ms Al Mansoori said respect for animals needs to start at home and come from parents.
“It’s the responsibility of the parents and the community to teach their children. They are young people, they are not all adults. One of the cat owners saw the boy who was doing it was around 13 years old.
“We are going to be starting awareness campaigns to make sure the younger generation are well oriented with animal welfare, and have better interactions with them.”
The cat, Bruno, which recently came back into Ms Al Mansoori’s possession was shot in the Al Rigga area of Dubai, where there had been a series of shootings, in 2016. After the incident was reported to her, she took Bruno to the vet, where X-rays uncovered a bullet, which had entered through his shoulder and was lodged millimetres from his heart.
She opted for open heart surgery, which she was told would be a risky option, although leaving the bullet could have caused an irregular heartbeat or even a heart attack, given how close it was to the vital organ. She was left with a substantial bill – of about Dh5,000 – for the treatment.
“I made a report to the police, but the police did not find the guy,” she said.
“But he must have been a resident in the area, experimenting his shooting skills on the cats.”
After making a good recovery physically, Bruno spent a happy few years with a family in Abu Dhabi. But since the family gave him up, his mental health has suffered. Anyone interested in adopting Bruno can contact Yanni Animal Welfare in Dubai.
“Physically, he is super-healthy, he is neutered and fully vaccinated. But he would love a new family, and a secure home," Ms Al Mansoori said.
"Importantly, if they leave the country, we would prefer them to take the cat with them. Because it is very traumatising for any cat to spend years with a family, then they will just dump them and leave the country. So I cannot put this cat through this experience again.”