Laura Glanfield got the idea of developing a petting farm from the UK where she would often take her two children, Isabel and Harry, during their visit back home. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/©XPRESS

Dubai: It's not just cats and dogs that are abandoned in the UAE. A host of other pets, many of them exotic, are also forsaken by residents who tire of them or move residence, XPRESS has found.

An unlikely sanctuary for unwanted pets that also serves as a petting farm on the outskirts of Dubai has rescued and rehomed scores of such animals and birds, each with a tell-tale past.

An ex-endurance horse given up by a British woman who had a baby; ponies in horrendous conditions rescued from a man trying to sell them; a spotted deer with a broken leg; a baboon that got too boisterous for its South African owners; cast-away rabbits picked up from the Lakes and Jumeirah… the list goes on to include ostriches, emus, guinea pigs, chinchillas, tortoises, porcupines, even goats, cows and donkeys, not to mention peacocks, sugar gliders, ferrets, cockatoos, ducks and several other birds.

Rare species

Some of these animals belong to rare species and their import and sale are banned and regulated under UAE Federal Law.

"People buy these animals as pets but do not realise what it takes to rear them," said Laura Glanfield, the British founder of the sanctuary called Poshpaws.

"We just want to help the animals. Our doors are open to them, although we are trying to put a cap on the number of cats and dogs because we have quite a few already," she said, pointing to the kennel and cattery wing which has a current capacity of 102 dogs and 47 cats.

Glanfield's rescue mission for unwanted pets began inadvertently when she was rehoming abandoned pups and kittens in Mirdif, an area that she covered as a property agent some years ago.

Her love for animals prompted her take up a course in dog grooming in the UK, following which she started a pet grooming company in Dubai. As the number of cats and dogs needing a home grew, she found herself starting a kennel and cattery.

The decision to shelter other kinds of pets came four years later in 2009. It was, as she said, born out of sheer necessity as there was hardly any suitable place for them in the UAE.

"It is important for people to purchase the right kinds of pets. They don't realise how long they will remain here or even know how long some of these animals can live," she said, referring to five chinchillas left behind on the farm by their owners when they went back to the UK as laws there require that the animals spend at least six months in quarantine before they can enter.

Glanfield said many families who pick up birds or rabbits on their children's insistence end up abandoning them once they outgrow their fancies. There are many cases in which owners give up these animals when they go on vacation as they find it cheaper to buy new animals when they return than pay for their boarding facilities, said Glanfield.

A large number of pets at Poshpaws have also come from animal importers and retailers.

Glanfield obtained the two cows on the farm from Sharjah as she felt sorry for them. "One of them was covered by fungus," she said, adding that she has since been treated.

"As for the other cow, I believe that every animal should have company, so I picked her up as well," she said. Likewise, a woman who wanted to rescue a pair of sugar gliders from a retail outlet in Sharjah bought them and gave them to Poshpaws.

Pet allergy

There are still some owners who buy pets and discover later that they are allergic to them. This is particularly common with rabbits and birds, said Glanfield, recalling how a woman gave her an entire cage of 10 budgies and other birds two weeks after she had bought them as she developed an allergy.

While unwanted pets are always welcome, looking after them is not easy as Poshpaws is a non-profit venture. The farm runs on donations and the money it makes from boarding facilities at the kennels and cattery wing. The farm also sells fresh eggs and books brought in by donors.

Glanfield, who has two Sri Lankan girls and several volunteers to help out on the farm where she also lives, said she spent anywhere between Dh10,000 and Dh15,000 a month to ensure that the animals are well fed and get medical treatment, including vaccinations. She said she had rented out the farmland for Dh130,000 a year.

With unwanted pets coming in all the time, Glanfield has also kept open the option of rehoming them. Anyone who wishes to take them is welcome to ask, though Glanfield is very particular about to whom she gives her animals.

She was recently approached by a woman who wanted a saluki pup but she had to be turned down as she lived in an apartment which was not the right environment for the breed.

Learning experience

The farm routinely hosts schoolchildren and encourages them to feed, touch and hold the animals while they learn fun facts about them.

As an extension of the fun experience, Glanfield also takes some of the animals out to schools or homes on various occasions.

Such trips are frequently made at birthday parties where children get to ride horses or play with the animals. An hour's visit would cost the party host Dh500. However, if the party is held at the farm itself, there is no charge, only a voluntary donation which people are willing to make, said Glanfield.

Directions: Drive down the Dubai Bypass Road (E611) and go towards Al Zubair along Exit 84 for 20 minutes until you see a nondescript gate a sign that says ‘Animal Care House'. Details at: www.poshpawsdubai.com

Did you know?

you can host your birthday party at the farm. there are no charges but voluntary donations are welcome. for more details call 050-273 0973.