Abu Dhabi: More than 5,000 stray cats and dogs were neutered in the first nine months of 2011, compared with 2,285 in the whole of 2010, it was revealed at the Stray Animal Welfare Conference.

"This is a great achievement because it means more awareness is being generated among the government, members of the public and organisations about the more humane methods that can be used to address this issue," Dr Margit Muller, Director of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which organised the conference, said.

"Also, in the case of cats, once they are safely captured, neutered, microchipped and released back to their original environment this allows us to control their population, which means they will have a higher quality of life in addition to helping to control the pest population in their area," she added.

The conference is supported by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi and the Centre of Waste Management-Abu Dhabi. Among the 130 attendees of the week-long event were representatives of trapping companies in the emirate, government officials and university students.

During the first day, participants took part in various discussions about the latest techniques and methods used for humane trapping and animal welfare.

“Once we receive the cats and dogs from the trapping companies, we immediately provide them with a thorough medical examination, microchip them and provide treatment, if need be. Once they are healthy, or in the case of puppies and kittens, when they are a bit older, we neuter them before placing them in the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter, which we manage, for adoption,” Dr Muller said.

“We have of course, experienced cases where we had to euthanise a cat or dog, either due to a debilitating illness or because we were concerned they would harm themselves or others,” she added. 

Representatives from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), who are also participating in the conference, have noted that great strides have been made in the region and the UAE in regards to addressing concerns about animals, especially strays. They will also participate in a week-long field observances with various trapping organisations across the emirate. 

“It’s unusual for us to be asked to step in once a programme is up and running, as we usually provide advice to help set them up after consulting with governments and seeing what their priority or problems with animal welfare are…but the programmes launched within the region, including the Abu Dhabi government are impressive and hopefully our feedback and advice on Thursday [the conference’s final day] will help everyone enhance their efforts regarding animal welfare, especially for strays,” Alistair Findlay, the Middle East Programmes Manager for WSPA, said.