Sharjah: The alarming numbers of stray animals is a big problem in the UAE.
Before the hot summer months kick in, animal shelters brace themselves for the exodus of expatriates heading home for the holidays.
All too often the residents leave their pets behind.
The stray cats and dogs, once loved and cared for are turned out onto the streets, forced to fend for themselves.
And if they're not neutered they reproduce quickly, resulting in thousands more unwanted, stray and starving animals.
While the behaviour of such irresponsible pet owners is rarely punished, several groups across the emirates are working to improve the fate, and the quality of life, of abandoned and stray animals.
Sharjah Cat and Dog Shelter aims to create a haven for abandoned and homeless cats and dogs in Sharjah.
The cat shelter, near Sharjah Airport, is a state-of-the-art, cageless building comprising eight suites that each houses up to six cats or kittens.
A similar home is in the pipeline for Sharjah's abandoned dogs.
One of the shelter's programmes is called Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) — described as a humane, non-lethal method of population control for outdoor cats and kittens that is considered to be more effective than the traditional trap-and-kill approach.
TNR is described as resulting in healthy and well cared for, but gradually diminishing, cat colonies. It also usually leads to an immediate reduction in complaints about behaviours associated with unsterilised cats, including spraying, fighting, roaming and breeding.
The programme involves trained staff humanely trapping the cats and bringing them to the clinic at the shelter to be neutered. They are also vaccinated and micro-chipped before they are released where they were found.
"You may have seen our traps which are clearly marked with our logo and contact number around your local community," said Sharjah Shelter Director Emma Cresswell.
"Please do not approach or move the traps. There will be a trained municipality worker close by, ready to remove the trap and bring it to the shelter once a cat is inside," she said.
"We will also be running an animal-assisted therapy programme from our purpose -built education centre for both main stream children, special needs children and young adults," Cresswell said.
"We are also currently constructing an off-leash dog park with designated agility area for the general public and their companion canine pets."
The shelter consulted the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in the UK to ensure the shelter's design, operations and practices offered the best care for the animals, to ease their transition to permanent homes once they were adopted, she said.
At a glance: Tackling problem
- To learn more about the TNR programme, volunteering, adoption or donations visit www.scads.ae
- Please do not contribute to the problem of unwanted puppies and kittens by abandoning your cat or dog.
- Did you know one female cat and her offspring can produce over 2,072,514 cats in eight years?