By Rezan Queiti
UMM AL QUWAIN // To say Amirah William is an animal lover is something of an understatement. The 47-year-old is so passionate about helping abused and abandoned dogs that she shares her villa with 160 of them.
Ms William, who works as a vice principal at a Dubai School, has been taking in animals for the last 15 years and helped to set up the SOS Animal Rescue Umm Al Quwain with two other volunteers last year to rehome the growing number of stray dogs found in the emirate, as well as the occasional donkey, cow, and camel.
However, the noise and the smell from her four-legged housemates became so much for her neighbours that they complained to the municipality.
And now Ms William has been given two weeks to move the animals to a more suitable home.
“For the past 15 years I have been rescuing and dealing with aggressive dogs,” said Ms William. “I have lots of experience with big dogs.
“My neighbour was good with it at the beginning and he was friendly and came a couple of times to visit,” said Ms William.
“But then he got bothered due to the noise. He asked me to move, but I answered that I can’t right now because of the huge number of dogs and I am waiting for support from the government. The municipality has said that it would be happy to give us a land with water and electricity.”
She has submitted a proposal to the police to rehome the animals on a piece of land donated to her by the government in an industrial area. But that proposal is still waiting to be signed off by Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, the Ruler of UAQ.
Ghanem Ali, head of UAQ’s Public Health and Environment department, said: “We received a complaint from some residents about a house that had many dogs, so we told the owner to visit the municipality. We gave her two weeks to solve her problem or find another place because her villa is in the middle of the residential area.”
Ms William is now anxiously waiting for her rehoming proposal to be given the go-ahead. But in the meantime she continues to care for her dogs while also trying to find them new homes with suitable owners.
“When I was living in Dubai, I was always fostering stray dogs and I had 18 living with me in my villa,” she said. “Then I moved to Sharjah but I faced problems with my neighbours due to my dogs, so I needed to move to another place where I could be happy with my dogs and they could be happy as well.”
When Ms William moved to UAQ, she was shocked to see so many stray animals living on the emirate’s streets.
“I couldn’t believe how many street animals there were here in UAQ so I helped set up the SOS Animal Rescue in July last year. Before SOS, I was part of a rescue group in Dubai and I have been fostering animals for four years until my own dog was hit by a car and died.”
Ms William moved to the UAE six years ago after converting to Islam in her home country.
“I converted to Islam in New Zealand and I wanted to live in an environment that could help me grow as a Muslim. When I considered which countries to move to, I found the UAE.”
Ms William runs the SOS Animal Rescue charity along with Petra Petrikova and Dana Shaheen, who also take in dogs at their homes. The charity relies on sponsors to help pay for the animals’ food and overall care.
Members of the public who want to adopt a dog must first fill out an application form to make sure they are suitable as pet owners. The charity can be contacted via its website, www.sosuaq.com.