UAE's largest private dog rescue shelter facing closure

Ballooning treatment bills caused vets to freeze the Stray Dogs Centre vet accounts

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 is facing closure after veterinary clinics froze its accounts due to ballooning treatment bills.

Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain, which is licensed at a local and federal level but is wholly reliant on public support to operate, can no longer seek treatment for any of its 430 existing dogs or any new animals brought to the centre.

This year, it struck a deal to accept all dogs caught by the municipality and took in 110 dogs in the last three months alone. But this greatly increased costs and pushed it to almost breaking point.

It will be a very sad day if those doors close

“With vet bills skyrocketing to Dh131,000 along with monthly operation costs, the time has come where the cold, hard facts are slapping the centre in the face,” said owner Amirah William.

“Stray Dogs Centre cannot continue to operate under these conditions.”

The centre, which has a 'no kill' policy, was established in 2013 by a group of residents concerned about the hundreds of stray dogs roaming Umm Al Quwain.

After initially establishing a network of feeding stations and fosters to take in dogs, a villa was rented to house the many dogs taken off the streets.

However, the centre, which had 140 dogs under its care, faced an eviction notice before land was granted by Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, Ruler of Umm Al Quwain, for the establishment of a permanent facility. The centre subsequently received a licence to operate.

Since then, it rescued around 3,500 dogs of which 2,600 were placed in new homes, but its bills continued to climb.

Ms William, from New Zealand, said the centre has to pay 10 caretakers and two administration personnel, in addition to buying food for 450 dogs and diesel to operate two generators as there is no electricity connection. It must also foot the bill for ongoing maintenance work.

However, vet bills are by far the largest monthly cost.

The centre issued a public plea for help earlier this week, which was shared on a number of social media sites, including British Expats Dubai's Facebook page.

The appeal vastly reduced the centre’s veterinary clinic bills.

“The response has been outstanding. At one clinic the bill stood at Dh107,000 and is now Dh37,000,” said Ms William.

But the dog shelter  still faces an uncertain future as its veterinary accounts are still frozen and it can no longer seek treatment for new or existing dogs.

"Most vets do not extend credit beyond Dh20,000. We have been lucky that our vet clinic has allowed us to continue treating our dogs far beyond the norm. Freezing of accounts is normal practice when rescue groups are unable to clear their bill by due date," she said.

"At the heart of rescue is the ability to provide the medical treatment and care required for dogs, thus preventing the spread of disease, to manage the population and to support a safer, healthier and cleaner community. Without a vet vaccination, neutering, castration, parasite control and treatment of sick and injured dogs is not possible and would have a catastrophic effect – not only on the centre, but also the community we serve."

Ms William said the centre had survived for the past six years against all odds and huge sacrifices had been made to keep it open. It will be a very sad day if those doors close."