UAE animal charities see ‘unprecedented’ rise in unwanted pets

Staff blame the surge in abandoned animals to an increase in the number of pet shops and animal breeders and rising rents that force tenants to move into smaller apartments.

Jackie Ratcliffe, chairwoman of K9 Friends, said it has been a sad and disheartening time at the organisation. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // The number of pets being dumped at animal shelters or abandoned on the streets has soared in the past month.

Animal charities are inundated with unwanted pets at the start of every summer but this year has been worse than ever.

K9 Friends dog shelter in Dubai is full and there are 90 dogs on its waiting list compared with only 30 dogs last June.

Chairwoman Jackie Ratcliffe said: “What a sad and disheartening time it’s been. We’re sorry not to be more help to people but we are full and can take no more dogs for the foreseeable future.

“It must be the fact there are more pet shops in Dubai than ever before and there are more people breeding dogs too. Every single call our volunteers took last week was from people trying to dump dogs on us.”

Ms Ratcliffe said: “At this time of year, the homing generally slows down because people don’t want to get a dog until they return from their summer break. So we always have a good month in September, and April, May and June are generally quite poor. But this summer is far worse than ever before for people trying to offload their own dogs on us.”

Ms Ratcliffe also said there was an increase in the number of puppies dumped across Dubai, including four crossbreeds from the same litter found in different locations around the city.

“What was frustrating last week was all the stupid phone calls we received. One was ‘I got a dog off you in 2002, my mum and dad are going back to India now and I can’t be bothered to look after it any more.’ This dog’s 14 years old, and she wanted to bring it back here to K9 Friends.

“Another was ‘we’re moving to an apartment – the landlord allows dogs, but it’s not big enough.’ I said ‘Our kennels are 2 metres by 2 metres - your apartment must be bigger than that.’

“It’s just people with no sense of responsibility. We are used to getting a lot of abuse on the phone. But last week our volunteers were going ‘I can’t believe what they’re saying to me.’”

Other animal organisations are also overwhelmed. Senior Dogs, Animal Action and Sniff do not have any available foster carers and Sharjah Cat and Dog Shelter is also full.

Charlotte Blackwell, a volunteer at Sniff, said: “We’re being inundated with emails and messages to take on abandoned pets. We attended an adoption day last weekend where one family surrendered their five-month-old puppy to us and then we were asked to take another three dogs. I was only able to say yes to one of these dogs and this was because he needed medical help for a very open sore on his nose.

“Unfortunately with the rental prices increasing, people are forced to move from villas to apartments, meaning they want their animals to be rehomed. This doesn’t help the already frighteningly high number of pets that are abandoned every summer.”

The boarding kennels are also full at this time of year. Ms Ratcliffe suggests booking kennels and cattery nearly a year in advance for the summer holidays.

She also suggested that people who had unwanted pets should offer them free on sites such as Dubizzle or expatwoman, as it is illegal to sell animals without a licence.

Organisations that care for pet cats also have similar problems.

The Feline Friends charity in Abu Dhabi provides foster homes to cats whose owners can no longer care of them, until they can be found more permanent homes. It has seen the number of available foster homes fall from 39 in June 2012 to 27 last month.

Lorraine Mohamed, deputy chairwoman of the charity’s executive committee, said: ”At the end of June when the long summer break begins, we lose another six of the 27 foster homes and despite frequent appeals for more foster parents, the uptake is slow to nil. We’re surprised that we don’t get more volunteers.”

Another Abu Dhabi cat rescue group, Sandy Paws, usually get five calls, emails or Facebook messages a week from people asking for help rehoming cats. Chairwoman Jackie Covill said it is now receiving five requests a day.

The increase comes despite the introduction of less stringent quarantine regulations in many countries, meaning it is easier to take pets abroad. For example, in the UK, Europe and America, all pet owners need is an up-to-date vaccination book and payment for the flights.

Ms Ratcliffe said: “In our family, we have a dog fund for our four dogs – we put away Dh100 every week so we know in however many years time when we leave, they’ll come with us.

“I’m sending my horse back this summer – that’s Dh30,000 – but I wouldn’t leave her here either. It’s got to be about more than money, this is a life you’re talking about.”