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Children lead the way for animal welfare in Ras Al Khaimah

10-year-olds build exercise shelter for dogs to protect them from gruelling summer heat

Gulf News

Dubai: A group of ten-year-olds in Ras Al Khaimah have built an exercise shelter for dogs to protect them from the gruelling summer heat.

When Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre opened its doors to educational visits by schools, the centre’s aim was simple — to create awareness and educate people about animal rights and welfare.

“The most important way to change people’s attitude towards animals is by teaching them the basics like dogs and cats can feel pain, too; they can be scared as well; they too need medical care,” Ellen Quanjer, the manager of the shelter, told Gulf News.

“It is actually about teaching children that a dog or cat needs exactly the same things like they do — a proper bed to sleep in, an air conditioner and food to eat.”

So, when the centre received a visit from pupils of the Ras Al Khaimah English Speaking School, they were pleasantly surprised by the reaction of the children.

While many pupils came with common misconceptions about animals — that animals are dirty or playing with them is dangerous — it did not take long for the little ones to discover the joy of playing with animals.

“There were so many children who were initially scared of even entering the centre,” Val Hart, a teacher at the school, said.

“But all we needed to do was bring in little puppies to the room the children were in and very soon they started petting and cuddling them. At the end of the visit, we had to drag the children away, telling them that the bus had come. That was the main thing — to see the children who were scared of animals, didn’t trust them, not being able to let them go.”

The reaction was so encouraging that the school started organising weekly trips to the shelter. The new-found love for animals and the need to care for them led to a decision to do something concrete.

When the children were told about how the gruelling summer heat makes it impossible for dogs to go out to play, they decided to raise funds to build an indoor, air-conditioned dog run.

“We thought it would be a good idea to do a community project, we wanted children to be associated with animals,” Hart said.

With this mission in mind, the ten-year-olds started organising numerous fund-raising activities. They gave fitness lessons to fellow schoolmates, applied henna and nail varnish on the hands of teachers interested in donating for the cause, organised penalty shootouts, where students paid to take a shot at the makeshift football goal post next to the class.

“All this was done in recess. They did not take time off any class and completed all these activities during their own time,” Hart said.

Through these consistent efforts, the pupils successfully funded a brand new dog run at the shelter, which can allow around seven dogs to exercise or be trained.

“I’ve been teaching for the past 19 years and I’ve never experienced anything like it,” Hart said, adding that younger pupils had already started planning and raising money for next year’s project.

Quanjer echoed the sentiment.

“I really can’t tell you how amazed I was that ten-year-olds have made such a huge difference to the animals. It is extremely amazing.

“The best thing is seeing in their faces the realisation that they can make a difference, though they are only ten years old. When I saw the children trying to assemble a big scratching post they had bought for the cats at the shelter, I could see it in their faces. They really realised how much of a difference they can make,” she said.