'I decided to risk my life': UAE residents help stray animals after historic rainfall

Submerged cars and flooded houses were some of the devastating consequences of the UAE’s heaviest rainfall in 75 years.

However, amid the chaos of the historic storm, stories of hope have emerged, particularly for vulnerable stray animals who also bore the brunt of the severe weather.

Mohammed El Aazaoui from Morocco is an animal rescuer who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 21 years. He drove 70km from the capital through heavy rain and strong winds to return to his workplace in Al Samha and save four 20-day-old kittens along with their mother.

They had made his office their home. When El Aazaoui arrived, the kittens were shaking from the water that had started leaking into the basement. “I found them above water,” said El Aazaoui. “I decided to take a risk, even if it cost me my life. I knew they would never survive and I would feel guilty and never rest.”

The kittens are now recovering in a foster home but will be up for adoption when old enough. El Aazaoui hopes others will continue to help strays, providing food and water and treating them if they are sick.

'i decided to risk my life': uae residents help stray animals after historic rainfall

The four kittens rescued by Mohammed El Aazaoui. Photo: Mohammed El Aazaoui

“They are souls who feel like us,” he adds. “We are in the UAE, a country of goodness and giving, so let us all live in peace, security and reassurance.”

El Aazaoui is not the only resident who has stepped up. An Emirati in the capital who wants to remain anonymous also found kittens who needed help near a villa under construction in the Rabdan area after he heard loud cries.

They were also with their mother, who was aggressive and hissing when he approached. However, when he fed her and she calmed down, he was able to take in the two kittens in a carrier and offer a safe space for them to eat and warm up.

“They had not eaten and they were scared,” the Emirati resident explained. “Once the rain stopped, I took them back to the same villa but a safe corner and left them. After a few minutes, I checked again and noticed one had left with the mum but the second one wasn’t moving and looked exhausted.”

He brought the kitten home and took it to the vet the next day. “He’s about six weeks old and has the flu, but his temperature is OK,” he added. “I have his five-day medicine and recovery food, which I feed him using a syringe and I am keeping an eye open for his mother because she always comes near to my house looking for food.”

While the kitten is recuperating in his care, he hopes he will be able to find a forever home when it is old enough.

Meanwhile, in Dubai, animal lovers were also out in full force to help. After the storm, Dr Clara Bastos, a vet at Pure Life Vet Clinic, stumbled upon a small kitten trembling in the bushes, soaked and struggling to stand. Determined to help, she swiftly brought him to the clinic for treatment and disease testing.

Naming him Thunder, she intends to nurse him back to health at the clinic until he is fit for vaccinations, after which he’ll also be made available for adoption. Dr Bastos hopes others will continue to help animals in similar distress.

“I advise everyone that if they find an animal in need of help or veterinary support, contact us or go to the nearest clinic,” said Dr Bastos. “They deserve help too. Try to be gentle when catching them, using a towel or an old T-shirt to hold them and keep yourself safe too.”

'i decided to risk my life': uae residents help stray animals after historic rainfall

Thunder was rescued from a bush after the storm by Dr Clara Bastos of Pure Life Vet in Dubai. Photo: Pure Life Vet

Alissa Aya, an animal rescuer in Dubai who grew up in the UAE, has never seen a storm like it. She volunteers for a UAE-wide animal welfare network that aims to help strays. Aya, who lives in a townhouse in Damac Hill 2, brought as many community TNRed (trap, neuter and return) cats into her home as possible ahead of the storm.

“I put most of them inside,” she said. “Better to suffer with their wailing for a bit than see them drown or get injured.”

Strays have been drenched, fallen into flooded water and are suffering from flu, but Aya and her team have started immune boosters and antibiotics as a precaution.

“It’s been a nightmare coordinating all emirates with our network, but it’s great to see people come together,” she says. “Even the smallest acts of kindness make a difference.”

As the animal welfare community continues with its rescue efforts, Aya hopes that people will continue to show goodwill. She refers to the non-profit website foodtostrays.ae in which people can help by gifting food to feeding stations across the UAE.

Aya added: “We can’t force people to be kind, but if more people came together we could accomplish so much.”

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