UAE residents rally to aid abandoned salukis

The recent closure of the Arabian Saluki Centre of Dubai, due to its founder Yelena Valici moving abroad, had thrown doubt on the future welfare of the breed.

Wiltrud Matthes with her saluki Noor, Rachel Thong with Comet and Marianna Wright with Lily. Ms Matthes and Ms Thong have set up Saluki Rescue UAE. Satish Kumar / The National
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DUBAI // Animal lovers have banded together to take over from a recently closed service that protected and found homes overseas for abandoned salukis.

The Arabian Saluki Centre of Dubai closed after its founder, Yelena Valici, moved overseas to start a business.

Rachel Thong moved to Dubai from Singapore four years ago and had been volunteering with the centre.

Ms Thong has set up Saluki Rescue UAE with her German friend Wiltrud Matthes to help the animals, which were traditionally used by the Bedouin as hunting dogs.

“There will always be people who want to help salukis. We are a community,” she said. “Overbreeding is a problem here and some people struggle to take care of them.”

Ms Thong is looking for new homes for 12 salukis she has saved from the desert and streets around the country.

“It is not expensive to ship pets overseas, maybe just €800 [Dh3,260]. I can help people with the administration that’s needed.

“It shouldn’t put anyone off taking their pets home with them if they leave the country.”

Dumping unwanted animals is a common problem in the UAE, which has created big problems for animal welfare groups, especially at this time of year as families escape the summer heat for weeks.

“I brought my saluki when I moved over to Dubai from Singapore so I know what wonderful dogs they are,” Ms Thong said. “As long as you exercise them twice a day they will sleep the rest of the time. They are not as high maintenance as people think.”

One saluki was recently found with a broken leg, staggering around near a petrol station at Silicon Oasis in Dubai.

The dog was taken to a vet for urgent treatment and is now recovering at a foster home awaiting a new owner.

Discounted rates for rescue dogs are being offered by Petzone and City Vet in Dubai. So far, Ms Thong has found new homes for about 20 dogs.

Those wanting to become owners must complete an adoption form and show that they have an understanding of what is required in the care of a saluki and the costs involved.

Saluki Rescue UAE charges a standard adoption fee, and basic vaccination and neutering charges – totalling about Dh1,000 – that are paid directly to the vet.

Government vets can approve a pet export permit if a new owner wishes to take a saluki home. Ms Thong said she could help in organising such a permit.

Mel Stones, a Briton working with Animal Action UAE in Abu Dhabi, has adopted two Arabic desert dogs that had been abused.

“There is a growing number of people who are great fans of salukis, which is great to see,” Ms Stones said.

“They are going from misunderstood animals to cherished. I think once you adopt a saluki you find you can’t just have one.”

She has since adopted two, Bonnie and Clyde, who were left at Dubai Municipality.

Bonnie’s previous owner had cut off her ears, and she had scarring on her face and a broken tail.

Clyde was in slightly better shape but had a damaged rib and was skittish.

Ms Stones has backed calls for a permanent saluki rescue centre, which would help to preserve an important symbol of Arabic heritage.

“A shelter would be a great help, as long as those who run it do full home checks, interviews and also run education programmes,” she said.

“It would be far easier as a recognised group and with an actual location to visit.”

To find out more about adopting a saluki, visit the Saluki Rescue UAE Facebook page.