Coronavirus: UAE animal shelters pushed to the brink by pandemic

Animals and Us in Fujairah may have to close this week due to a Dh55,000 revenue shortfall

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A UAE animal rescue charity fears it may be forced to close this week, leaving dozens of cats, dogs and donkeys homeless.

The owner of the Animals and Us Rescue and Care Facility in Fujairah said the pandemic had pushed the operation to the brink of closure.

With dwindling financial backing, soaring vet bills and rent due this week, Michelle Francis said she was no longer able to cover her costs.

She said that if she did not come up with Dh55,000 for the facility’s lease, the charity would have to close.

“My only worry is that if I am asked to go, believe me there is nobody to do what I am doing,” she said.

“I can’t do it alone. Some people take dogs off the street or whatever, but I am doing 80 per cent of the work. It breaks my heart, honestly.”

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People are just dumping dogs and it's not just one or two. We have taken in 52 dogs in the last four weeks. That's abnormal."

Ms Francis, who is a full-time teacher and runs the charity in her spare time with the help of volunteers, has been rescuing animals in the Emirates for 17 years.

Her organisation is registered under the umbrella of Emirates Animal Welfare Society, a non-profit that cares for abandoned pets.

Speaking to The National, she said the cost of running the centre was enormous, with the Dh195,000 rent paid in three instalments throughout the year.

She said she currently only had Dh10,000 out of the Dh65,000 needed to extend the lease of the premises.

The set up also owes a number of vets thousands of dirhams for past treatments and its disinfectant bill alone runs to Dh800 each week.

“We don’t have sand in our facility. The floors are all cemented. So it has to be cleaned,” she said.

“We have a lot of donkeys we are feeding and taking care of.”

Ms Francis said the pandemic has resulted in many more animals being abandoned on UAE’s streets.

Toots, a stray dog rescued from the streets in Ajman by Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain. Courtesy: Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain 

She also pointed out that normally generous financial backers had scaled back their assistance due to job losses and pay cuts.

“It’s impacted us financially a lot,” she said. “And people are just dumping dogs and it’s not just one or two.

“People are dumping three or four puppies along with their mothers. We have taken in 52 dogs in the last four weeks. That’s abnormal.”

Owner of Stray Dogs Centre speaks about rescue of dog with large tumour 

The Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain, the largest non-profit animal shelter in the UAE, has also seen a drop in financial contributions and food from supporters.

It is helped by the fact it pays no rent, but volunteers who used to visit the centre at weekends to help exercise the dogs have been unable to due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic.

“We can see it’s having quite a big effect on the dogs because they are not getting as much human interaction as they were,” said owner Amirah William.

The centre is also still being called to look after a lot of strays, including one in the worst shape Ms William has ever seen.

The dog, which has been named Toots, has a large tumour growing from its stomach.

She had been living on the streets in Ajman and was picked up along with another dog with injuries to its paw.

“She is probably one of the worst dogs we have rescued in that condition,” she said. “She would have died a horrible death on the streets.

“She had been spotted by some of the labourers and workers. Everybody was concerned but nobody could catch her.”

They tried three times and finally managed last week.

The dog is currently being treated at Vets 24 in Ras Al Khaimah, but the centre faces a bill of upwards of Dh10,000 for the treatment.

“They think it [the tumour] is malignant,” she said. “We are hoping it hasn’t spread and removing it will give her a better quality of life.

“I don’t know how this dog managed to survive as long as she has.”

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