Hundreds of stray dogs could be the unlikely winners of the widespread coronavirus disruption as more off-work teachers volunteer to foster homeless pets.
As increasing numbers of residents choose to self-isolate or work from home, opportunities are available to help animal rescue centres in the country.
Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain, the largest non-profit animal shelter in the UAE, currently has 462 dogs seeking new homes, with 35 fostered since the announcement of school closures.
It has also seen a 25 per cent increase in volunteers.
“We have had an influx of teachers coming to the centre to volunteer and offering foster homes for a month,” said owner Amirah William.
“Our minimum foster period is two weeks, it is hard work but rewarding.
“If anyone has doubts about fostering then volunteering for one of our weekly activities is a good option.”
The centre currently has 13 full-time staff and about 350 volunteers who help out with various activities.
Animal Action, part of the Emirates Animal Welfare Society, is another volunteer group appealing to teachers to offer a temporary foster home to stray dogs.
“It would be great if we could get teachers who may be off school for a few weeks to help out with volunteering or by offering temporary foster homes for the many dogs and cats we have,” said Briton Natalie Stones, a volunteer with the group.
“It would save a lot of money and keep the dogs out of kennels.
“If we can take dogs like that off the streets it will give us time to get them vaccinated and cleaned up and into a proper home.”
Some teachers could stay at home for up to a month following the UAE's decision on March 8 to close schools and universities to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Animal Action currently has more than 150 dogs and 30 cats in temporary accommodation, awaiting new homes.
Boarding facilities are in use at the Australian Veterinary Hospital in Khalifa City, Petsville and Paw Parking in Al Quoz, Dubai.
Ms Stones said Animal Action, and other similar volunteer-led welfare groups, would be able to take in more emergency cases, if foster carers came forward.
“Freeing up space in kennels would allow us more resources to take a young dog in and give it the help it desperately needs,” she said.
“We can match suitable animals to the right foster home, once we have had a questionnaire back to give us an idea of a good match.”
All veterinary costs and medical bills are covered by the charity, as are donated toys, blankets and beds.
Wayne Howsen, Principal at Aquila School in Dubailand, has become a regular foster carer for abandoned strays with his wife, Laura, who is also a teacher.
“During this time off we will take in more animals who can live with us for a while, rather than in a box in a kennel,” said Mr Howsen, 50.
“You have time to spend with the dog, so it can keep you company and it’s also a lovely experience for them too.
“The dogs become much calmer, more gentle and loving being in a proper home.”
Mr and Mrs Howsen currently have seven cats and three dogs, named after famous racehorses, Denman, Frankel and Waffle.
“We take some dogs on a temporary basis, but often end up loving them so much we keep them permanently,” said Mr Howsen.