Hundreds of unwanted pets being abandoned leaves animal groups desperate

The cost of transporting an animal, and the preparation involved, are cited as two key reasons why expats who are leaving the UAE for good decide not to take their pets with them.

Abandoned dogs at K9 Friends in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

DUBAI // Hundreds of unwanted pets are abandoned and left homeless each month as welfare groups receive desperate calls each day asking them to take unwanted pets.

Sarah Bartlett, of Animal Action UAE, said the number of abandoned animals was always higher in the hotter months and this year was proving to be another difficult summer.

“Anecdotally, there seems to be a higher-than-usual number of expatriates leaving, especially from Abu Dhabi,” she said. “We are receiving calls on a daily basis from people asking us to take on their animals.”

Groups who are charged with picking up the pieces when pets are left homeless, say lack of foresight is often a big contributing factor in abandonment – especially in the peak holiday season as pet owners scramble to find somewhere to leave their animals while they are away, and often baulk at the cost involved.

“Catteries and kennels book up fast and it’s often not possible to get a pet into one at the last minute,” said Ms Bartlett. “Often people don’t want to pay – something that continually amazes us.

“How is it that someone is willing to spend thousands of dirhams on an animal and claim to love it but then not pay the Dh50 to Dh100 it costs a day to house it safely while they travel?

“Quite often these people return from holidays and head to the pet shop to buy another puppy or kitten. It’s a vicious cycle.”

The cost of transporting an animal, and the preparation involved, are cited as two key reasons expats who are leaving the UAE for good decide not to take their pets with them.

“We know leaving can be stressful, especially if it is not by choice or within a less-than-desirable time frame, but there’s rarely a truly valid reason to leave animals who are members of the family behind,” said Ms Bartlett.

Alister Milne, of K9 Friends, said the summer rush of people leaving animals behind started earlier this year.

“We have had more calls than usual from people wanting to give us dogs on very short notice as they are leaving the country,” he said.

The problem is heightened at a time when there are fewer people interested in committing to adopting an animal because of to lack of job security, and volunteers are packing up and moving home for good, he said.

The scale of the problem led to one animal advocate, who asked to be referred to just as “Jane”, to begin a project tracking the scale of abandoned, dumped and unwanted dogs across the UAE.

The Brit trawls through dedicated UAE animal pages on Facebook, catalogues the numbers of dogs that are without, or soon to be without, a home.

Figures have more than quadrupled from March, when there were about 50 dogs, to more than 200 last month.

Jane said these figures did not include the dogs already in shelters. “The numbers of dogs needing homes increases every year but this year has been horrific,” she said. “With the summer exodus of people leaving and going on holiday, there are not enough homes for all the dogs.

“It is invariably voluntary rescue groups and individuals that deal with this and they are overwhelmed, as are the shelters.”

Debbie Lawson, an animal welfare volunteer, described the number of abandoned animals as alarming, with the situation worsened by the economic environment and summer holidays.

“At the moment, it is unprecedented,” she said. “There is seemingly no way to get on top of the problem.”