Dog shelter braced for rush of grown up and unwanted Christmas puppies

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DUBAI // The emirate’s oldest dog rescue centre is preparing for its annual rush, as the novelty of puppies bought as Christmas gifts begins to wear off and owners realise the work, training and love needed to keep a pet.

Each year hundreds of dogs are abandoned in the emirate, with staff at K9 Friends Dubai taking calls daily to look after dogs left by owners who leave the country or will not commit to the effort the pets need.

The centre, which has been running for 28 years and is close to finding a new home for its 5,000th dog, is housing about 140 dogs, 20 above its capacity.

“We’re always full,” manager Alister Milne said. “There are all sorts of reasons so nothing shocks me any more.”

Summer and new year are the busiest times for the centre, which is run by volunteers and supported by sponsorships.

“By February the puppy is no longer cute and fluffy and still not toilet trained so we get a bit of a rush then,” Mr Milne said. “There is a run before Christmas where people get rid of dogs to make room for puppies.

“While we’ve started to get Christmas puppies it’s still early. Some realise they’ve made a mistake immediately but from February they begin to realise what they’ve taken on. It’s all too common that dogs are just kicked out on the street.”

Animal workers say people should research which breed is right for them based on activity and independence, and the size to which the dog will grow.

“Due to more and more pet shops and people not taking responsibility for their animals, more dogs are abandoned or left to stray every day,” said Jackie Ratcliffe, one of the original founders of K9 Friends.

“It is sad that places like K9 Friends need to exist. If people neutered their animals and took responsibility for their care then we wouldn’t need to exist at all, but sadly dogs are another throwaway item and people buy them and breed them on a whim.

“It’s sad that although we are nearly at our 5,000th dog, and even though we neuter every dog that comes through our shelter, abandonment and overbreeding is still such a problem.”

Jenie Blanksby adopted pharaoh hound Arnold three months ago after her son Harry fell in love with it while volunteering at the centre.

With its ears and tail cut off to breed him for fighting, Arnold, now 3, had spent about half his life at K9.

“Each time he was put forward to a family, they didn’t want him because of the way he looked,” said Mrs Blanksby, whose family already have two rescue cats.

“We thought my husband was allergic to dogs so we agreed to foster Arnold for two weeks and see how it went with that and the two cats, but as soon as Arnold saw my husband it was mutual love at first sight,” said Mrs Blanksby, who has lived in Dubai for 12 years.

She said the shelter provided a vital service to the community.

“It’s a very important facility to have. Otherwise, these dogs would die a horrible death. They find the right family and environment for them so to find 5,000 matches is really amazing.

“These dogs now live all over the world.”