Many cats have been found abandoned near feeding stations. This one was found near the Mina animal market Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: Animal activists claim they have rescued over 100 pets, mostly cats and a few dogs and chipmunks, after they were found abandoned in the area around the Mina animal market.

According to them, the area had become a “dumping ground” for unwanted pets in the last two months. “It is a horrible situation. We have rescued around 70 pets that were left to die in the heat in the open grounds near the pet market,” said Katie Lifei, who runs a network of volunteers who help trap, neuter and feed stray cats.

“Almost every day our volunteers spot a couple of new home-bred cats that are underfed, dehydrated, ill or wounded,” said Lifei.

Lifei said it was a two-way problem. “Irresponsible pet owners use the area as a dumping ground as they know we have feeding stations, and shopkeepers get rid of ill and unsellable cats by simply letting them off.”

Volunteers who feed strays in the area claim the animals are dumped because they are ill.

“I have rescued at least 15 cats in the last two months. Most of them had infections,” said Priscilla Dyenina, a Filipino volunteer. Dyenina claimed treating and vaccinating the abandoned pets had resulted in an outstanding vet bill of Dh8,000.

Another volunteer Paul Dejong said he had rescued five cats from Mina, including a three-month-old kitten.

Unprecedented rise

“It is very clear they were dumped. When they fall ill, they become unwanted. We cannot afford to rescue all the animals. At the same time we cannot turn a blind eye to the problem,” said Dejong.

Staff at the Canadian Veterinary Clinic located in the pet market in Mina said they had seen an increase in pet dumping this summer. “It has been much worse this year. Every week, rescued pets that need medical attention are being brought here,” said Shaila Jamora, a vet at the clinic. One shopkeeper admitted that unsellable pets are occasionally let off.

“We just let them go. What else can we do?” he said.

Another shopkeeper, however, blamed pet owners for the menace. “This summer we have had many people wanting to sell pets. But just by looking at some of the animals, we know they carry infections. When we refuse to buy them, the owners simply dump them in the area,” said the man.

Abandoning pets is illegal and as per the UAE Federal Law 16 of 2007, pet owners can be imprisoned for a year or fined up to Dh2,000 for animal cruelty and negligence. Many volunteers said they have lodged complaints with the authorities to check the pet dumping problem.

“We are trying to get the authorities to put up a notice in the area to warn people against abandoning pets,” said one of the volunteers.