Regulations sought for pet stores

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THE head of a local animal welfare society has argued that restrictions need to be imposed on pet shops in Qatar, and claimed that she has been working with animal welfare and legal experts to prepare an adequate legal framework for maintaining certain standards.
Nadine Ali bin Ali, who is the head of the Qatar Cat Coalition, said that she was disgusted by the conditions of the pet shops she had visited, stressing that the monitoring of the stores was a necessary and impending development.
“We prepared a report on the need for certain measures to be introduced in pet stores here with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which we presented to the municipality authorities about a year ago,” she explained.

“The authorities concerned are animal-lovers and want to help us, but things are moving slowly,” she added.
Gulf Times carried a report about the state of pet shops last year, and has recently revisited a number of the places mentioned in that report to discover whether any changes have been made.
However, the conditions that animals are being kept in are still the same with many people arguing that the shops are “simply disgusting”, and “need to be changed”.

One animal lover told Gulf Times that after visiting one of the most popular pet shops in Qatar, she had been so upset that she had burst into tears and vowed never to visit one whilst living here.
This sentiment was echoed by the large majority of people Gulf Times spoke to, with many telling stories of mistreatment and ill-health they had witnessed during their visits to pet shops.

A British expatriate, Natalie Palmer, who owns two rescue dogs of her own, urged anyone thinking of getting a pet to visit the Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS) as they are usually inundated with rescued animals.
“As long as people buy dogs from the shops they will continue to replace their ‘stock’, and so it is essential that people stop giving these places business, even if purchasing out of sympathy,” she argued.
As well as the poor conditions, there are also concerns about the animals being sold and about their origins, as Qatar has banned the import of exotic animals.

During the recent investigation, Gulf Times found a saltwater crocodile on sale in one shop for a price of QR1,500. The salesman there claimed that six other infant crocodiles from the batch had already been sold from the shop.
And the lack of knowledge about the animal was also blatantly obvious, as he claimed “this is a normal crocodile…yes, a saltwater crocodile…you can keep in any kind of water,” before adding “it will grow very big – maybe one day he eat you or me!”

“Despite being illegal, the sale of animals such as this is dangerous, and should not be allowed whatsoever,” argued Nadine.

Gulf Times also found a selection of fish which have been dyed or painted on sale in many shops. A shopkeeper explained that the novelty items came from Malaysia, but the deliberate colouring of fish to write ‘I LOVE U’ and to make them appear to be wearing lipstick is something that visitors have been shocked by.

“I cannot believe they would do this anywhere, and I’m amazed that they are on sale here,” said one visitor to a pet shop, who added that the fact that they were available in so many places must mean that people were actually purchasing the fish.

Most shops also housed squirrels, many of whom appeared unhealthy and cramped in tiny cages. Other common complaints were sick cats, most of which had some sort of infection in their eyes. Despite this, salesman were charging up to QR2,000 for these animals.

The lack of professionalism of the shops was noticeable, as when asked about the vaccinations and medical history of the animals, most salesmen seem to have little knowledge.
“This cat was owned by a British family and is very healthy,” a salesman said “it has all the injections, but if you want to know, just take him to the doctor.”
Any regulations that are introduced will surely have to deal with these problems, and Nadine is adamant that these were areas that had been addressed by her organisation. She hoped that the authorities would similarly recognise the importance of resolving these issues.

Nadine hopes to see the appointment of an ‘animal warden’ position within the municipality to assist with the implementation of a stray dog programme, as well as the general regulation of pet shops, to “help improve the conditions these animals are kept in”.

GT