DUBAI // A chance encounter with a badly disfigured stray cat during a visit to a park spurred a family to help find new homes for the emirate’s unwanted animals.
Sajid Shafique, his wife Iram and their daughter Miriam came across the scruffy feline on a trip to Creek Park. It was in such a bad condition that they decided to nurse it back to health.
“It started when we were on the beach in Creek Park and we saw this little thing, which we thought was a rat. It was a cat with half its face eaten off by ants,” Mr Shafique said.
“I thought, ‘let’s try saving it’, so we took it to our vet and treated it. The joy we got from that was unreal and we got more and more into saving animals.”
Within six months the cat, which they named Scarface, regained its health and was adopted by another family.
Inspired to help more abandoned, unwanted or lost animals, Mr Shafique launched adoptanimalsuae.com in August to help connect rescue and volunteer groups with people seeking a new pet. It has been a success – more than 100 cats and dogs have been adopted or reunited with their owners.
The site is much needed during the year end, according to Mahin Bahrami of Middle East Animal Foundation. She has witnessed a worrying increase in the number of abandoned pets, with 15 cats dumped in just one day this week.
“We see a lot of unwanted cats and dogs during the holiday season and most of them are unwanted gifts,” she said.
“We also have cases of people who go on holiday and realise that they don’t have anywhere to keep the animal or haven’t found anyone to take care of it while they’re gone.”
Ms Bahrami urged pet owners to check whether a kennel or cattery was able to take their pet because they often reach full capacity quickly during the holidays.
“People need to plan this stuff ahead. If they’re going on vacation, they need to make sure that their animals are taken care of and not thrown on the street,” she said.
Mr Shafique said the website’s professional look was key to its success. “From my experience at a brand consultancy firm, I know that if we package something properly it gives everyone a better chance,” he said.
Mrs Shafique said they only dealt with people who have the best interests of animals at heart. “We prefer to be in touch with the people putting up animals for adoption because they could be pet shops or breeders, which is illegal,” she said.
The website has had more than 100,000 visitors since its launch, and features 586 animals – including cats, dogs, rabbits and birds – in need of a home.
“We list animals only from reputable people and are looking after the best interests of the animal,” she said.
To put an animal up for adoption on adoptanimalsuae.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org.