Ziggy, nearly died after he was riddled with air gun pellets. The German shepherd underwent prolonged treatment and had to wear a big collar to prevent him from licking his wounds Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Have we fallen out of love with our pets? Going by what animal rescuers tell XPRESS, it looks like we certainly have.

Beaten, burnt, stabbed, hanged, shot and starved to death - animals in the UAE are suffering as never before. The catalogue of savage and vicious acts of deliberate cruelty and torture on defenceless animals is horrifying: a cat shot with a gun in Al Barsha, a dog hung by its neck in Satwa, a cat left with no face after an acid attack in Abu Dhabi, a puppy thrown out of a moving car in Al Aweer, a dog slashed so badly with a machete it had to be put down...

Cruelty to animals presages personality disorders in later life.

Studies show that people who hurt animals hurt people. This can take the form of domestic abuse, child abuse, assaults on strangers and other violent crimes.

While the exact number of such cruelty cases in the country is hard to come by, animal rescue organisations say there has been a disturbing escalation in rescue calls to their helplines.

Since February last year, just one organisation - Friends of Animals (FOA) - alone has received 1,639 e-mails, not counting the phone calls they get every day.

"Instances of brutal injuries have increased alarmingly with at least three-four dogs and eight-ten cats being rescued daily," says Shree Nair, General Secretary, Middle East Cats Society.

Just recently, animal rescuer Yelena Radzionenka rushed a badly wounded Turkish cat to Lucky Veterinary Clinic in Al Barsha. "It was in an incredibly miserable state. I thought she had been attacked by a dog," recalls Radzionenka. She was not entirely right. An X-ray showed the cat had also been shot with a gun.

Torture zone

Shocking though it may appear, this is not an isolated instance.

Of late, animal rescuers have attended to several pets with gunshot wounds: a thoroughbred saluki, a labrador cross, a chihuahua and three German shepherds, including hopelessly crippled Ziggy.

Dumped by his owner, his testicles riddled with pellets, Ziggy was on the verge of death when he was rescued by FOA. Miraculously, he survived and went on to win three prizes at the recent dog show in Abu Dhabi.

Patchi, though, was not as lucky. The German shepherd died instantly after being shot when his owner, a British woman, was taking him for a walk at a Ras Al Khaimah farm. "There was another pet dog with the woman. It got a bullet too, but was saved by the vets," recalls Laura Dexter of Poshpaws Animal Sanctuary on the outskirts of Dubai.

Even Salukis, the most expensive and prized dogs in the UAE, are not spared from such mindless attacks.

Some time back, Raghda Auttabashi of Abu Dhabi-based animal group Al Rahma Society, found an injured Saluki in Al Ain. She rushed it to Blue Oasis Veterinary Clinic. An X-ray revealed a bullet inside the animal's stomach.

Auttabashi said that by far the worst case she had encountered was that of a cat - a victim of an attack by a corrosive substance, suspected to be acid, in Abu Dhabi's Mushrif area "She had no face, only a lump of infected meat."

Closer home, Emma Cressler of the Cats & Dogs Shelter in Sharjah, came across an equally gruesome case: A dog lacerated with a machete. "The injuries were so bad it had to be euthanised," said Cressler.

Besides air pellet gun attacks, cases of poisoning of pets have also been reported - many from well-heeled communities like The Greens, The Springs, Barsha and Mirdif.

Heinous acts of pets beaten with stones and sticks also abound as do instances where dogs have been set off on cats.

Mushrif resident Siddiq Ali lost two pet kittens in such attacks recently.

According to a UAE Federal Law (see box), owners should protect their pets from predators and extreme weather, besides providing them with nutritious food and water. Penalties for ill treating animals range from Dh5,000 to Dh20,000. Animal groups say since the law is barely enforced, violations are rampant.

"We have a fantastic law with three parties - the Ministry of Environment, municipalities and the courts - to implement it. Each of them has defined responsibilities but they are lost in technicalities," says Montserrat Martin of FOA.

"Unless the law is enforced, things will not change," says Afra Al Daheri of UAE Pet Lovers.

  • Federal Law No 16, 2007, deals with animal welfare in the UAE. Penalties for mistreating animals range from Dh5,000-Dh20,000. Owners are also bound to protect their pets from predators and extreme weather, besides providing them with nutritious food and water.
  • 360: the number of cats rescued by friends of animals since november 2009
  • According to a recent survey by YouGov Siraj, most people in the UAE are aware of animal cruelty but are unlikely to do much about it. Of 757 people surveyed, over three-quarters (77 per cent) said animal cruelty was common. Around 72 per cent said people should be more active in reporting animal cruelty but only 7 per cent of those who had witnessed mistreatment said they had reported it. Around 40 per cent said they had confronted the abuser while 47 per cent admitted they had done nothing.