Dubai pet market angers animal re-homing charities

They say that, despite its good intentions, Dubai Municipality's market will only lead to more abandoned animals.

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DUBAI // Pet rescuers were angered by the opening of a market in Dubai that they fear could make the city’s problem with unwanted animals and illegal breeders worse.

The 45-hectare market is a one-stop shop for pet businesses in Al Warsan 3, with auction halls, clinics, a quarantine space and a “hotel” for cats and dogs.

It is run by Dubai Municipality, but volunteers who re-home unwanted animals said it would make their work harder.

Kay Ivanova, a volunteer at the rehoming charity 38 Smiles, said: “Where will all these animals come from?

“While the whole world is fighting to close puppy mills, this is supporting them. Local backyard breeders might be illegal but, regardless, it’s a reality.

“How many of these puppies, kittens and rabbits will end up being unwanted after only a few months? All the rescue groups get daily requests to rehome someone’s ‘beloved pet’.”

Ms Ivanova said the situation reached crisis levels during summer, when families often leave the country on long holidays, or for good.

This is the first such dedicated central market in Dubai. Officials insisted that traders would offer only animals that were healthy and suitable as pets.

About 80 shops were expected to open at the market by the end of the month. Background checks have been completed on shop owners, half of whom were Emirati.

Dubai Municipality could not be reached for comment, but officials have said the market complied with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites.

Dangerous or exotic animals not suited to be pets, such as big cats, or wildlife sanctioned under Cites, will not be sold.

Animals for sale will have relevant certification from port authorities, health and environment ministries, and Dubai Municipality will ensure compliance.

Last year, more than 500 Facebook users joined an online group calling for the Sharjah Bird and Animal Market to be shut down, after claims it was selling illegal breeds and keeping animals in poor conditions.

Linda Tedd, from PetExpress Dubai, a company that helps people to legally move their pets in and out of the country, is worried. “This is going to be a Dubai version of the Sharjah market – it could be a nightmare,” she said.

“I have been dreading this place opening. Abandoned pets are a huge problem here and it will only get worse.

“Moving all of the pet shops to one area where they can be properly regulated is a great idea, but we are going to get even more swamped because we’ve got so many dumped pets already.”

The market has free parking for 800 cars, is open every day from 9am until 10pm, and there is an on-site municipality administration office.

Facilities could be extended further, with a pet park, children’s play area and more shops and warehouses.

A privately run pet hotel has space for temporarily homing pets whose owners are on holiday, or moving house.

Pooja Prakash, a pet rehoming volunteer, wants to rehome more than 25 cats and kittens.

“This market is a very bad idea,” she said. “People purchase animals one day and then just don’t want them another day.

“Animal markets are horrible. Most of the animals there are sick, because they don’t have a quarantine process or correct treatment if they get sick.”

A search on Dubizzle on Monday found 345 pets advertised for free adoption in Dubai and the surrounding area, and a further 28 listed as lost and found.

Mrs Prakash will be holding a cat-adoption day next Thursday, from 3pm until 6pm, at Street 26, Al Quoz 4.

For more information, email her at furryfriendzz.forever@gmail.com

nwebster@thenational.ae