Left to die: The alarming trend of pet abandonment

LAKSHMI KOTHANETH

Globally, millions of dogs and cats enter animal shelters. These pets were either intentionally abandoned, neglected or have gotten lost.
In the US alone, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that “Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).”
Euthanization is the process of mercy killing or putting to death an animal painlessly through the use of medicine.
Although the number of cases of pet abandonment in the Sultanate is hard to track, it is a trend that do happen. The soaring temperatures are a major concern for animal lovers as they worry that without proper shelter on extreme weather condition, abandonment would definitely mean death for homeless pets.
Dr Peter Nolosco, senior surgeon at the Capital Veterinary Clinic said, “Currently, there are many dogs and cats that are being brought in from the streets by rescuers. The reasons why they were abandoned are many, such as the expense of maintaining a pet, moving out of Oman and not being economical to take pets back with them from their home countries. Consequently, the animals suffer.”
Another reason for the abandonment of pets is when sickness strikes, Nolosco added.
“When the pet gets sick some owners find it as an overwhelming responsibility. They come here and leave them near the clinic and leave. There are others who request to pay the bills in installment. There are others who bring in their pets for treatment and never come to pick them up,” he added.
A major issue that needs more awareness according to Dr Nolosco is in regard to parents buying pets for their children.
“Having a pet is a great responsibility and both the parents and kids have to be aware of it. As for the kids, once the craze of having a pet is over, within days or a few months, then it becomes a responsibility. If you buy a Persian cat, for example, it needs special care and grooming as well as regular visits to the vet. If neglected their furs would matte. Soon they are abandoned,” the veterinarian said.

An organisation caring for the abandoned
Tiger by the Tail (TBTT) is a group of animal lovers who has been voluntarily picking up abandoned dogs, cats and birds who are finding it difficult to not just find food but most importantly water and shelter.
Currently, the team is made up of Jaison Mathai — founding member, Nivya Crasto – adoption in-charge, Namrata Balbir – in charge of fostering, Bindu Mohite — member of the fostering team, and Namrata Cibbar.
At first, they had been individually helping out the animals in distress but came together to pool their resources and efforts in January 2016.
“To date, we had around 50 cats and eight dogs adopted and have gotten stray cats spayed so that they can no longer multiply. After having the strays spayed, we release them back into their habitat,” the group shared.
Today Tiger by the Tail has over thousands of friends and supporters. They now have connections in Sohar who are eager to support abandoned pets especially during the summer.
“Sometimes, tourists are the ones who instantly call us to rescue animals. We have been able to rescue about 100 animals. Not all of them needed homes. We’ve also been rescuing pigeons and once, even rescued a wild rabbit,” Mathai shared.
The team effort is also supported by Zakiya al Zakwani, the owner of Capital Veterinary Centre.
“She is a huge animal lover and without her support we could not have come this far,” the team pointed out.
Asked how their programme works, the team explained, “If a cat has an injury but has a comfortable habitat, we treat the injury and release them back. These cats, once released, hardly live long. Often, their lifespan only last for about one to one and a half year. Most of them hardly get any water.”
They added, “We feed about 35 cats with food and water. All of them are muted. The Omani cats are known for their high-immunity. They are highly intelligent and make good pets. They are easy to maintain as pets as well. Most importantly the temperature is not a problem at all. Besides they are street smart.”
But unlike the Omani cats, some breeds cannot tolerate the summer heat if they are left outdoors.
As Dr Nolosco pointed out, “With my experience, some breeds, if they are left on their own will not survive even five to six days. Psychological issues have been detected more and more in cats. “

Animal psychological trauma
What people have to understand is that when they abandoned their pets, these animals undergo psychological shock, the expert said.
Dr Nolosco added, “Cats express all emotions just like humans but we are not capable of understanding them perhaps. “
“The first thing a cat goes through when they are abandoned is psychological depression. Even dogs go through these emotions. We have come across dogs that come here for treatment and cannot bear to miss their family even for a day. They have very close association with the family so one can imagine if they are abandoned,” he said
Even wadi dogs go through tough time during the summer and according to the Vet the best gift for them during the summer would be water.
Both the vet and the members of TBTT were hoping that people will be more responsible pet owners and that parents in particular will instill in their children that owning pets is a big responsibility, one that cannot be taken lightly as life also depends on it — even if it’s just the life an animal.