April 20, 2022
RAK4Animals: Ras Al Khaimah’s Animal Welfare Awareness Campaign
Animal welfare has long been a topic of interest to animal lovers and pet owners in the UAE. Here in Ras Al Khaimah, recently dubbed by many as the “most pet-friendly emirate,” many initiatives and resources exist to support pet owners and prospective “pet parents.” These include the recently launched Ras Al-K9, a community campaign to enable pet-owners to bring their furry family members with them to different venues, including hotels, restaurants, and beaches. Moreover, Ras Al Khaimah hosted its first pet festival “Paws by the Beach” in late February 2022, which was shortly preceded by the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival’s (RAKFAF) “Pet Friendly” Weekend.
However, the continued presence of stray and abandoned animals tugs at the heartstrings of many concerned citizens and impassioned animal rights advocates. In an attempt to survey the matter more closely, the Al Qasimi Foundation carried out a study on “Animal Welfare in the United Arab Emirates” to shed light on the extent of the issue. One of the findings pertained to the community’s general lack of awareness on animal welfare concerns, including where to report animal cruelty or how to properly care for pets that have been adopted.
In light of such challenges, the Al Qasimi Foundation has launched an Animal Welfare Awareness Campaign, #RAK4Animals. One component of this campaign has involved the formation of an intergovernmental committee in Ras Al Khaimah dedicated to furthering animal welfare, beginning tomorrow on March 17. The campaign itself was launched during a “Community Conversations” session held on February 20 at RAKFAF. The session involved a panel discussion with Dr. Omer Kutubi, the medical director and founder of Village Vet LLC, a veterinary clinic based in Ras Al Khaimah, and Abdulla Al Blooshi, the Operations Director the Landscape Agency in the Public Services Department of the RAK Government. Together, Dr. Kutubi and Mr. Al Blooshi answered questions pertaining to pet care, healthcare, and misperceptions people have about animal welfare.
Here are four important lessons that we learned from the Community Conversations session:
- Fostering or Adoption Considerations
One of the most important considerations pertaining to animal welfare includes affordability. Since pet owners have a financial responsibility toward pets, it is necessary to ensure that one can meet these needs. In addition, pet owners must consider whether their living arrangements are suitable for certain types of pets. For example, having a dog often requires having a more spacious area, such as a garden, to enable greater freedom of movement. Alternatively, it is necessary to consider how adding a new pet to the family will affect existing pets.
Moreover, caring for a pet requires one to adjust his or her lifestyle and make time for one’s furry (or scaly) companions, as dogs must be walked every day and trained. Lastly, and perhaps one of the most important factors, pertains to one’s emotional availability and readiness. In the words of Dr. Kutubi, pets are for life, and pet parents should be willing and eager to make the adaptions needed to welcome a new family member into their lives.
- Caring for Pets
Upon adopting or fostering an animal, pet parents should consider a few factors. For example, a pet’s diet should be carefully selected, as many healthy and unhealthy varieties of pet food exist. However, some may be tasty but not be as nutritious, thereby contributing to animal illness. Moreover, animal diets should not be changed frequently and, if a transition is made, this should be gradual over the period of one week to prevent health problems from occurring. Pet owners should also be careful as Dr. Kutubi indicated there has been a notable increase in diabetes diagnoses in pets, which can be genetic or developed through the consumption of unhealthy diets. With regard to pet check-ups, it is further necessary for animals to be vaccinated annually, dewormed once every 3 months, and de-flead every 1 to 3 months.
Pet owners must also be proactive about contacting veterinarians about any health issues, including in the case of accidental poisoning through the ingestion of chocolate, toxic chemicals (i.e. cleaning detergent), or insecticides. In case of emergency, pet owners are encouraged to call or send a picture of an ailment or problem to a veterinarian (i.e. through WhatsApp) to best determine the most appropriate and immediate course of action.
- Common Misperceptions About Animals
One common misconception that exists among pet owners pertains to the potential transmission of COVID-19 to one’s pets. While this has been documented to a limited extent, Dr. Kutubi and Mr. Al Blooshi asserted that it is uncommon and largely circumstantial in most cases. However, for the sake of caution, people are encouraged to limit interaction with their pets upon testing positive for COVID-19.
Another common misconception pertains to the microchipping of pets, which is a practice that is encouraged to help track animals’ medical history and also reunite any abandoned pets with their owners. This practice is completely safe, harmless, and painless for pets, and is generally encouraged to promote animal welfare and cultivate a sense of responsibility in pet owners.
- Contributing to Animal Welfare
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, both pet owners and concerned community members can help promote animal welfare in society. This includes the following:
- Educate yourself by reading animal welfare-related laws, including Federal Law No. 16 of 2007 (amended in Federal Law No. 18 of 2016)
- Educate others by passing on your knowledge about animal welfare and/or pet care to other concerned citizens, especially if you have children, to promote community engagement
- Report animal cruelty or violations of animal legislation to the concerned authorities, specifically through the Ministry of Climate Change & Environment’s Bio-Security Early Notification Portal
- Take your pet to the vet periodically for vaccinations, neutering, and/or for regular health checkups to prevent any health issues from becoming critical
- Double-check whether something is illegal or prohibited before reporting it to the authorities (i.e. checking with security guards in a residential area regarding whether dogs can be walked in a housing complex)
- Be cautious when adopting an animal by asking for proof of licensing and other documentation pertaining to the animal’s history and health, especially if purchasing a pet, to decrease the incidence of scams or illegal breeding
In sum, there are many different ways through which community members can contribute to the welfare of animals in society. Regardless of whether one is a pet owner or a non-pet owner, it is important for residents to be educated about animal welfare. After all, the first step toward change involves community engagement. At the end of the day, we all have a role to play in promoting respect and compassion for all life forms, be it a cat, canine, or just your average, friendly neighborhood critter.
Janaan Farhat is the Research Assistant at the Al Qasimi Foundation. She holds a BA in International Studies from Leiden University, Netherlands, with a specialization in the Middle East.
Saqr Al Malki is the Innovation Specialist at the Al Qasimi Foundation. He is currently pursuing his Master's in Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the University of Wollongong, Dubai, and holds a Bachelor's in Human Resources Management from UAE University.