By Jennifer Bell
ABU DHABI // Dogs are a man’s best friend – until the summer holiday season comes around.
Animal charities say that this year they are again stretched to breaking point having to care for dogs that have been abandoned by their owners.
Jackie Ratcliffe, chairwoman of K9 Friends dog shelter in Dubai, said she hears the same excuses at the start of every summer as pet owners leave for a holiday, or even for good, but without their furry friend.
She said the annual cycle begins as early as April, when people start thinking about their summer holidays.
“Then the phone calls begin; ‘I’m leaving’, ‘I’m going home’, ‘I can’t or won’t take my dog with me’,” she said.
The most common excuse is that the owner cannot afford to transport the dog, Ms Ratcliffe said. Other reasons given include that the dog would “be too stressed to fly, or they just won’t cope at home, or we can’t find a place in our home country that will let us have pets”.
“We have heard it all before,” Ms Ratcliffe said.
The K9 dogs’ home is already at full capacity and she said demand will only increase over the summer.
Animal Action UAE, in Abu Dhabi, has been getting between three and five requests a day to take on dogs this year when in previous years it was about one a day, said Sarah Bartlett, spokeswoman for the organisation. “We have had to shut our doors on taking more animals on until we have permanently homed some of our existing 100-plus souls,” she said. “We are at explosion point and it is only May.
“Some of these requests are to take on more than one animal, too, and we know that all the other rescue organisations have also closed their doors already for summer, which is several weeks earlier than usual.
“This would normally indicate that the volume of abandonment is also getting worse each year.”
Ms Bartlett said there was a direct correlation between peak travel periods and animal abandonment in the UAE.
“Many people don’t want to pay for boarding. So the animal often ends up on the streets,” she said. “I’m talking pedigree animals that may have cost thousands of dirhams in a pet shop too. Yet the cycle continues when people return after summer and buy another animal to replace the one they dumped.”
A recent case in point, she said, was a limping labrador cross found by labourers. The dog was microchipped, but when the owners were contacted they said they no longer wanted him and so had put him on the street to fend for himself.
Tania Chernyshova, of Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre, said dogs are handed in almost every day in the summer.
“The most common excuse we hear is ‘I am leaving the country and cannot take my pet with me’,” she said. “In most cases ‘cannot’ actually means ‘don’t want to’.
“Relocating your pet with you is not that difficult, but a lot of people just do not see their pets being worth this hassle.”
Late spring and summer are peak times for her centre.
“A lot of people are permanently relocating out of the UAE in summer and do not want to take their animals with them,” said Ms Chernyshova. “Some are going on vacation and do not want to pay boarding fees, so decide to get rid of the animal instead.”
Jasmeen Bhirani, co-founder of Dubai-based Strays Needing Interim or Furever Friends, said: “People do not make adequate arrangements to board the pets – they find it expensive.
“They are not willing to take the responsibility of a pet seriously and somewhere down the line they have ‘copped out’.”
Dr Margit Muller, director of the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, said: “Nowadays it is possible to relocate pets to almost all other countries and it is not an excuse any more that the quarantine regulations in their home countries are tough,” she said.