Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain saved after appeal to help clear its bills

The centre thanked readers of The National who came to the non-profit's aid to secure its future

UMM ALQUWAIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Dogs at the Stray Dog Centre, Umm AL Quwain.  Ruel Pableo for The National for Evelyn Lau's story
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The UAE’s largest private dog rescue shelter has been saved from closure after an influx of contributions helped to clear its debts.

Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain, which houses 430 dogs, was on the brink of being shut down after the veterinary clinics treating its animals froze the shelter’s accounts due to unpaid bills.

But so many people came forward to support the non-profit shelter, including readers of The National after we promoted the appeal, that the centre is starting the year debt free.

“It didn’t look like we were going to be able to dig ourselves out,” Amirah William, who founded the centre in 2013, said.

“But the response, because of the article as well, has been really amazing. It’s more than we ever expected."

The centre was tens of thousands of dirhams in debt to vets after taking in 110 dogs caught by the municipality in the past three months alone.

The centre struck a deal to accept all dogs caught by the municipality last year, but the agreement greatly increased the centre’s costs and pushed it towards breaking point.

All 110 dogs were neutered and vaccinated, as is the centre’s policy, causing its bills to balloon and vets to freeze its accounts.

“The impact of taking so many dogs from the municipality has been huge on the centre, not only financially but in terms of our caretakers as well being overworked and the strain on them. We had to employ another caretaker as well," Ms William said.

Last week, the centre appealed for help to safeguard its future.

Ms William said the centre was then targeted by a phishing scam after a fake Facebook account posted a link to a PayPal account it claimed was for donations.

The shelter alerted PayPal, which removed the account, but not before supporters paid into it.

“We have a few emails from people who donated to that PayPal account, which we are really sorry about it. We have had the same PayPal address since 2013,” Ms William said.

But the centre still received tens of thousands of dirhams in contributions.

In addition to one off payments, 130 people have pledged to become sponsors for individual dogs, throwing the centre a lifeline as it seeks a sustainable solution, which it could include a non-profit veterinary clinic.

The appeal has enabled the centre to clear its main vet bill of Dh107,000, a second bill of Dh36,000 and food bills of Dh24,000.

“The response, because of the article as well, has been really amazing. It’s more than we ever expected,” Ms William said.

The centre, which has a "no kill" policy, was established by a group of residents concerned about the hundreds of stray dogs roaming Umm Al Quwain.

It has rescued about 3,500 dogs, of which 2,600 have been placed in new homes.

“There is still money coming in. The response has just been unbelievable," Ms William said.

"We have actually started the year debt free. For the doggies this is really a miracle.”