Strict laws, campaigns needed to protect pets from being abandoned

By Ghadeer Ghloum

KUWAIT: Kuwait has witnessed a remarkable spread of irresponsibility towards animal rights, with a rise in cases of people abandoning their pets, which has reached an alarming level. Due to the concerning spread of this unfortunate behavior, Kuwait Times interviewed Elika Mansouri, founder of iCare Kuwait, and Shahad Al-Otaibi, rescuer of stray animals and abandoned pets.

Kuwait Times: In what ways can society work together to educate and discourage the act of abandoning pets?

Elika Mansouri: Our society needs to understand that animals are living beings, with physical and emotional needs.

When owners abandon their pets, they must understand that these pets would have a very poor chance of survival on the streets after being accustomed to living in a house environment. These animals experience sadness, anxiety and fear when abandoned and will be exposed to car accidents and diseases. In order to educate society about the consequences of abandonment, rescue groups constantly share and post about the poor state of abandoned pets and try to discourage the act of abandoning animals.

 Shahad Al-Otaibi

Shahad Al-Otaibi: In my opinion, an anti-animal cruelty awareness campaign should focus on the adolescent and youth population.

This is because, as I perceive it, children are where the demand signal for “pet toys” originate — they are most often the recipients of pet presents or the ones demanding them from their parents. Their request usually comes with a lack of forethought or true sense of responsibility. Children are also more malleable and impressionable than older adults. For those reasons, I believe that awareness campaigns should start with educational events and lectures in elementary, intermediate and secondary schools to instill an understanding of pet animals as living, breathing and feeling creatures, which require long-term love, care, effort and time commitment, as well as emphasize the suffering and cruelty that home pets experience when their adopters abandon them.

Concurrently, animal rights and rescue groups, in collaboration with the Kuwaiti government, should raise public awareness by using billboards and pamphlets to awaken the public’s sympathies for the suffering of abandoned pets. These campaigns can also seek to encourage the public to assist rescue teams with TNR (trap-neuter-release) campaigns, which aim to reduce the number of stray cats, and educate people about the benefits of spaying and neutering.

KT: What are some alternatives to abandoning cats that could ensure their well-being?

Mansouri: Individuals can contact rescue groups on social media platforms to surrender their animals safely. It is logical for any rescue group to have a surrender fee that would go towards basic vetting, food and the overall care of the animal. The establishment of government-based shelters or offering government financial assistance to pre-existing rescue groups is also very crucial for the crisis we are experiencing. There are currently many privately-funded rescue groups that work tirelessly day and night and deserve to be recognized and supported financially. All these groups should be offered the opportunity to apply for permits and registration in order to receive official support and sponsorship.

An abandoned domestic cats found by Shahad Al-Otaibi is seen in this photo.

Groups are currently overwhelmed because there is no government shelter as well as no implemented law that punishes or stops people from abandoning their pets, and the number of animals in need surpasses the available resources they have. Otaibi: Three ideas come to mind if, ultimately, an adopting family is forced to abandon their pets. Firstly, they can ask family, friends and relatives, whom they believe are interested in adopting home pets, to take in their pet. Secondly, those families can seek out groups that foster pet animals and help rehabilitate them. Finally, pet homing families can solicit the help of animal shelters and rescue groups to find a new home for their pets in Kuwait or abroad. The latter option should be a last resort, as rescue groups have thin-stretched resources to deal with their current caseloads.

KT: How does abandoning cats contribute to the burden on animal shelters and rescue organizations? Mansouri: Kuwait currently struggles with the overpopulation of stray cats. Abandoning your cats adds to the crisis we are already experiencing in the community, and as a consequence, rescue groups will face a shortage in resources and space. The financial, physical and psychological impacts would eventually exhaust rescue groups, which could pause or terminate their rescue missions.

Otaibi: Animal shelters and rescue groups already deal with a huge volume of cases of injured, dying and abandoned pet cats and dogs. They often work with little donations and few funding sources or are outright volunteers. Additional cases of abandoned home pets further strain their limited resources and often leads to the death of those animals that animal shelters and rescue groups do not have the capacity to save.

KT: How can we encourage the public to adopt abandoned cats and pay more attention and responsibility towards this matter?

Mansouri: No positive change can happen unless strict laws are implemented to protect the animals and their rights. Rescue groups can offer open house days or adoption days at pet stores, offering the public the opportunity to adopt their rescues, but this does not solve our issues. Unless the laws are in place on the protection of animal welfare as well as strict regulation on imports and breeding, nothing will stop people from buying pets and easily abandoning them. For example, Saudi Arabia now considers leaving animals under the sun a punishable crime. We frequently see animals struggle in extreme heat, and Kuwait is one of the hottest countries around the world.

An abandoned cat suffering from illness spotted by Shahad Al-Otaibi.

Otaibi: I believe those awareness campaigns we discussed at the beginning can also help raise the public’s interest in adopting abandoned pets by showcasing success stories of rehabilitated and rehomed pets, highlighting the feeling of fulfilment and happiness that brings to both the readopting family as well as the pet itself. As part of those campaigns, greater emphasis should focus on adopting abandoned pets as opposed to buying pets from private (over)breeders, who, I believe, are contributing to the problem at hand, but that is another conversation.

KT: What are the potential consequences of abandoning pets?

Mansouri: Some of the consequences of abandoning your pet, specifically in Kuwait are dehydration and heatstroke, exposure to extreme temperature, starvation and malnutrition, which hampers the immune system, making them more susceptible to becoming ill, injuries and death on the roads, overpopulation crisis and public disturbance. Public intervention resulted in many of these abandoned cats to recently be trapped in large numbers and disposed. Also, it has been years since irresponsible owners have been abandoning their pets by the beach. Many rescue groups have been caring for them over the years (including spaying/neutering, vaccination and treatment).  All of this goes back to the same issue we have: Lack of strict laws against animal abandonment and cruelty.

Otaibi: In addition to the pain and suffering abandoned home pets experience, the dumping of animals has consequences for the community that many people fail to realize. For example, abandoned animals may pose a road safety risk if they run out in the street while attempting to search for their owners. They may also cause unintentional ‘nuisance’ to the community while they roam around searching for food, or because of being in distress or feeling unsafe, bark at other dogs (in case of abandoned dogs) or bite another pet or person. Moreover, abandoned cats exacerbate the problem of stray animals in the country, as those cats’ mate with other stray or abandoned cats.

The post Strict laws, campaigns needed to protect pets from being abandoned appeared first on Kuwait Times.

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