Animal welfare workers at loss on how they can obtain donations now

They say animals are not represented by any of the licensed charities in Dubai and organisations can no longer appeal for a member of the public to pay a vet's bill, for example.

Evelyn Priess with Charlie, her rescued Saluki. Sarah Dea/The National
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DUBAI // Workers at charitable organisations and welfare groups have mixed opinions on the benefits of the law regulating fundraising in the emirate.

Charity worker Dr Houriya Kazim, the UAE’s first female surgeon and the founder of the Wellwoman Clinic in Dubai, set up the NGO Breast Friends to financially support women with breast cancer.

She welcomed regulation of fundraising to ensure charities remained transparent.

“As a donor, I need to know that the money I donate will get to those that I specifically think need it. This is what the Government is trying to regulate by setting up a system of checks and balances with Iacad [Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department]. It’s not to stop people from helping others.”

However, other welfare workers said their charity work was suffering because of the regulations.

“I would say it is catastrophic for animal organisations,” said Debbie Lawson, a volunteer who works with animal welfare groups across the UAE.

Many organisations rely on donations, for example, when fundraising efforts are urgently needed to pay towards a rescued animal’s vet bills.

Often, these organisations would appeal online for funds to receive them in a timely fashion rather than through a lengthy approval process.

“Almost all of the animal organisations operate on a network of volunteers and fosterers, and most of the communications, assistance, rescue work and rehoming is done on social media,” said Ms Lawson.

Evelyn Priess, of UAE Animal Awareness, said that while animal welfare workers in the past would appeal to the public to contribute to the vet bills of sick strays or rescue dogs that needed medical attention, this was no longer possible.

“You are now not entitled to appeal,” she said.

“We cannot even say, ‘OK, this dog is at a vet right now. If you want to help us, just go to the vet’. This is not allowed anymore and that is a problem. So how this make it easier? I have no idea.” Ms Priess said that animal welfare groups have been affected badly, as animals are not represented by licensed charities in Dubai.

“There is no way right now to get any charity for animals – it is just not possible. Animals are not part of any charity scheme,” she said.

“We do have to accept that there are always people out there who do not ask for donations for the real and right reasons but a lot of organisations depend on it.

“It really has to be thought about how it can be made easy for groups to be registered as a charity and to support people who really are truly trying to help.”