Dubai: The UAE's animal kingdom now has its very own Robin Hood.
She may not steal from the rich or have Lincoln green clothes, but Montserrat Martin regularly receives phone calls for help at 2am and rescues abandoned animals from Al Khawaneej, Springs, Al Awir and even some industrial sites in Ajman.
Like most animal lovers, when the Spanish artist and creative director sees a creature in pain, she just cannot walk away.
"I usually take the injured animals to the vet or my home temporarily, but I already have five rescued cats and a dog in my one-bedroom apartment. At some point, it started becoming difficult."
When she found a wounded, stray dog on the way home from work in June, 2009, Martin decided to appeal to the public by writing a community report for Gulf News.
"It all started with Fernando, the hopping dog. Whenever my friends or I write a community report, we receive at least 50 calls straight away, from people looking to help."
Since then, she has helped rescue over 30 injured and abused animals from bleak situations, and delivered them to loving, lasting homes. Usually, the animals are victims of hit-and-run cases or abuse — most have no owners, with nowhere to go.
Stories of neglect abound in the city and Martin uses her experiences to stir up response. Through her reports, she has helped form a network of animal rescuers and volunteers — all people from different nationalities and career paths, united by the sole purpose of making life a little better for animals without homes.
She said: "People want to help in any way they can… I have seen cruelty towards animals, but it is usually out of ignorance."
Most residents who have found injured animals do not know where to go or what to do with them.
Martin stressed the need for awareness campaigns about animal welfare and for greater focus on the issue at the primary school level.
Despite the existence of penalties for the mistreatment of animals in the UAE, which range from Dh5,000 to Dh20,000, she said more needs to be done.
"The UAE federal law is so strong against the abuse of animals. But they are still in a miserable state. I have actually taken dogs and cats out of Dubai Municipality and found them good homes because of their shocking living conditions."
She added that since November 2009, "not one dog has been euthanised by the Municipality" because of such efforts. With the help of K9 Friends and Feline Friends, Martin has found loving homes for most of her charges. She also follows up regularly, to see how the animals are doing. And almost always, the stories have happy endings. She said: "Kiki the dog is helping her new owner lose weight and recently, a family got in touch with me to adopt a pup so it could provide company to their 18-year-old dog."
Devoting most of her time to animal welfare means fewer dirhams in her wallet — but Martin is undaunted. "I may be a little poorer and may not have time for my work, but this is definitely more rewarding."
There is also a simple justification for what she does — "When there is something or someone in need of help, how could I possibly turn my back on them? This may not be my country, but it is my world, and I want to help treat our animals right."
What do you do when you see an animal in need? What is the most you would do to help abandoned animals?