Dubai expat scandal of discarded dogs

Published:  9 May at 6 PM
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Dubai’s unique, luxurious expat lifestyle is being blamed for the large number of abandoned pet dogs being housed in the Stray Dogs Centre an hour’s drive from the city and its gated communities.

The Stray Dogs Centre is found deep in the desert surrounding Dubai, with its rudimentary facilities home to 123 dogs. At least 25 per cent of the abandoned pets are believed to have been simply discarded by their expat owners when they leave the emirate for jobs elsewhere on the planet. Shelter volunteer Fiona Myers Watson believes the dogs are just another representation of Dubai’s luxury lifestyle, as disposable as unwanted clothes and household goods.

Expat arrivals in Dubai buy into the city’s consumerism from the first moment, settling into luxury villas unaffordable to them in their countries of origin, acquiring servants and the obligatory Porsche as well as a cute dog, even although they know they’ll be leaving after their three year contract ends. Some are decent enough to take their unwanted pets to the shelter, whilst others just leave, either dumping the dog on the streets or leaving it in the empty villa.

Summer is the worst time for the shelter, due to the annual mass exodus of expats moving on to their next contract. Recent periods of economic uncertainty have seen even more dogs being abandoned when their owners decided to leave. K9 Friends is the longest established dog shelter in the UAE, with its manager Alister Milne saying the state of the jobs market is linked with the number of abandoned dogs arriving at the shelter.

Founder of the Middle East Animal Foundation (MEAF) Mahin Bahrami estimates some 40 per cent of discarded cats, dogs and other small animals are victims of uncaring expat owners who’ve left the country. Bahrami told the Guardian newspaper she’s certain expats don’t plan ahead, simply going with their wants rather than considering the circumstances and the responsibility of taking on pets. To her, their attitudes are best described with a dismissive Arab saying, ‘khalli walli’, roughly translated as ‘who cares’.

It’s not just domestic pets who are treated in this uncaring manner,as the attitude extends to exotic species such as baby lion cubs, often exchanged for another baby when the original cub grows too large. Unwanted domestic pets including dogs, cats, rabbits and birds are locked in deserted homes, kicked out onto the streets or, worse still, the desert, and even euthanised.

Dubai authorities encourage owners to relocate their pets with them, and rabies is no problem since it’s been eradicated. MEAF is urging the government to flag pet ownership as contracts end and enforce accounting for the pet before expats are allowed to leave. Abandonment is actually illegal, but few steps are being taken to enforce the law.
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