Ruff deal: Animal shelter braces for surge as expats abandon Qatar

When stray puppy Izzy was rescued from a stretch of wasteland in Qatar, she was so dehydrated she could barely stand and was close to death.
Ruff deal: Animal shelter braces for surge as expats abandon Qatar

There are no statistics on stray animals in Qatar, but Paws estimates they number in the tens of thousands

One of many abandoned and stray animals struggling to survive on the scorched streets of the wealthy Gulf state, she is set to be adopted by a German family, but most others are not so lucky.


Now, Izzy's rescuers are warning there could be a spike in dumped pets in the emirate as an economic downturn driven by the novel coronavirus pandemic forces expatriate workers and their families to leave at short notice.

Expatriates make up 90 percent of Qatar's 2.75 million population.

"We're expecting a wave of emails and phone calls to say, 'Help'. We've had a few of those already," Paws animal shelter co-founder Alison Caldwell said.

Major employers including Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Airways have warned of sweeping cuts to staff numbers as the global economy slows.

Animals dumped or born on the streets in Qatar face particular hardship.

Summer temperatures touch 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) and images of abuse, including animals being shot with airguns, are common on social media.

Caldwell said the Paws shelter had already seen an uptick in the number of animals needing help.

"There's nothing we can do, really," Caldwell said -- the shelter has capacity for just 60 cats and 30 dogs.

There are no statistics on stray animals in Qatar, but Paws estimates they number in the tens of thousands.

- 'Sitting there waiting' -

The pandemic has also complicated Paws' efforts to re-home animals.

Izzy, a cream-coloured "Doha mix" cross-breed common in Qatar, was rescued in February.

By April, a family in Germany had spotted her story on Paws' Facebook site and decided to adopt her.

But commercial aviation had ground to a halt as authorities imposed restrictions to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

From her home near Bremen in northern Germany, Christina Fuehrer said she had been "just sitting there waiting" for flights to resume so she could complete Izzy's adoption.

"We still have to find a flight," she told AFP, but said mid-July was the soonest.

Until then, Izzy is with a foster family who, like many others in Doha, found themselves eager for canine company to break the lockdown's monotony.

"We decided it would be a good thing to do this summer, because we're obviously not going anywhere," said Julie Melville, who has taken the puppy in temporarily.

Paws uses "flight buddies" -- volunteer passengers who carry animals to their future homes as excess luggage.

It costs just over $300, compared to $1,600 to send the pets via air freight -- but for the system to work, passengers need to be able to travel freely and frequently.


- 'Strange times' -


Founded seven years ago by two British expats, Paws said it saw an influx of animals in the early days of the pandemic from owners who feared their pets could spread the virus.

People have also contacted the shelter for help after some animal owners fell ill and were hospitalised without warning.

Since March, more than 100 people have died and over three percent of Qatar's population has been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to official figures.

Animal cruelty is also a major issue, said Paws co-manager Hester Drewry, due to Qatar's transient population and a lack of education on the issue.

To raise awareness and deter those unable to care for an animal from acquiring pets, Paws partners with local schools and encourages children to volunteer with the rescue animals.

But Qatar's lockdown has seen schools suspended and Paws unable to visit.

The not-for-profit depends on donations and a mostly volunteer workforce, as well as revenue from its kennelling service.

The shelter team says their pens are "always full" as they battle to cope with an ever-increasing population of abandoned pets and strays, and volunteers often take home animals to help out.

"We have a huge backlog of animals waiting to fly out to their 'forever homes'," Drewry said.

Since opening, Paws has helped re-home 1,000 animals, many of them overseas, where Qatar's ubiquitous Saluki hunting breed -- with their distinctive narrow heads, prominent eyes and dangling ears -- is highly coveted.

Drewry expressed hope that some animals would begin to leave in July and August as travel starts to pick up again.

"It's strange times," Drewry said.
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Vietnam gears up to export electric motorbikes to Cuba

-Vietnamese electric motorbike manufacturer PEGA has completed the signing of contracts to export two types of electric motorbikes with a value of approximately US$3 million to Cuba after its partner in the Caribbean... Read more »

Nearly US$7 million of public investment disbursed in six months

Disbursement of public investment in the first six months of 2020 amounted to nearly VND156 trillion (US$6.73 million), fulfilling 33.1% of the plan set by the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, higher... Read more »

Teleconference seeks partners in support industry products

A teleconference took place on July 7 with the aim of supporting local businesses seek partners to co-operate in outsourcing, producing, and exporting local support industry products to the Japanese market amid the... Read more »

SJC gold price climbs to new peak of VND50.35 million per tael

The domestic SJC gold price surpassed the VND50 million per tael mark for the first time on July 7, reaching its highest level since August 2011 in the process. Read more »

First half of year hit by plunging rubber exports

Vietnam exported 456,000 tonnes of rubber during the first half of the year worth a total of US$606 million, down 25.7% in volume and 27.9% in value compared to the same period last... Read more »

Vietnam puts illegal transshipment to US under control

Vietnam customs have identified a list of foreign goods forging Vietnamese origin that contributed to a surge in exports to the US, including bicycles, solar batteries, seafood, and wooden products. Read more »

Firms in HCM City shift focus towards ASEAN market

With local exports to both the United States and European markets facing plenty of difficulties as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, many businesses based in Ho Chi Minh City are... Read more »

Exports: Expecting to “turn the table” thanks to EVFTA

Suffering from the serious impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the first half of this year, export goods of Vietnam recorded a serious decline in all key commodities. This situation would change in... Read more »

It is necessary to implement drastic measures to ensure the goal of disbursement of foreign loans

VCN  - This year is the final year of the medium-term public investment plan period 2016-2020. The remaining tasks for the entire period are set for this year. However, the Covid-19 pandemic affected production... Read more »

How does EVFTA impact on State revenue?

  VCN- With the participation in international economic integrations and the EVFTA, opportunities and challenges will be shared equally among all parties. Commitments on import and export tax under the EVFTA will have a... Read more »