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Dubai: The four-legged and furry are often the first to go when the going gets tough.

But when Gayani Wijeyesekera's family was forced to leave their villa in Abu Dhabi and consider abandoning their 23 cats and dog — they chose to live apart and save them instead.

While Wijeyesekera moved into an apartment with her son and five cats, her husband returned to Sri Lanka and had their remaining pets flown out.

Montserrat Martin, founder of Friends of Animals, Dubai, said: "People came forward with donations and in no time, most of the cost [of transporting the pets to Sri Lanka] was covered by people who were determined to contribute to the story's happy ending."

Wijeyesekera said: "Having an animal is a responsibility. You can't change your mind halfway. I'm an average person with an average job, but these are my pets that I love."

According to Martin, the number of abandoned pets rises dramatically during summer months. She said: "No matter what the situation, there are always humane options. With time and good planning, you can find viable solutions. Never ever abandon your pet."

Video: For the love of animals