As people throughout Doha look ahead to what the rest of 2012 has to bring, the Qatar Animal Welfare Society (QAWS) is preparing itself to continue to provide its much needed services to the community in Qatar.
Dog lovers yesterday participated in the ‘Mutt Strutt,’ with many owners bringing along their own dogs to take part in the sponsored dog walk at the QAWS farm.
With the group set to celebrate its eighth birthday this year, QAWS has grown on an annual basis and is now well known throughout the country, having become for many the first port of call when dealing with issues related to animal welfare.
Gulf Times spoke to QAWS chairperson, Janet Berry and adoption coordinator, Kelly Allen to discuss the challenges and successes of the last year, and what they hope to achieve in 2012.
“We are seeing fewer cases of deliberate cruelty to animals which is good news,” said Berry adding that abandoned animals are still the most common cases the group have to deal with.
The QAWS shelter is full to capacity with around 116 dogs, 60 cats and an assortment of other animals currently under the groups care.
Although they cannot accept any more abandoned or rescued animals, they are always willing to give advice and assistance in any way they can.
“We are glad to be the first point of contact for most people now, and whenever anyone finds an animal they should give us a call and we will give them any advice that we can,” said Allen.
Berry explained that the number of adoptions taking place is on the increase, referring to the recent change in UK quarantine laws as a major reason that more people choose to offer a home for animals from the shelter.
This has led to numerous success stories, such as the case of Wobble, who was recently adopted from the farm, having been there for two and a half years.
And there are some more bizarre cases, such as Sid, the donkey who turned up in someone’s garage in Al Khor and now lives happily at the farm.
Sadly, tragic cases continue to arise, such as Dolly, a dog who was found to be suffering from such terrible mange that she eventually died from blood poisoning. It is cases like Dolly which remind QAWS of the work they have to do to ensure that all animal owners in Qatar take proper care of their pets and do not cause them such pain and suffering.
QAWS has always had difficulties providing enough space to meet the huge demand for their services, and still not having achieved charity status makes the day to day running of the farm on a part time or voluntary basis a constant battle.
The main challenge facing QAWS is raising the funds necessary for the upkeep of the farm. With running costs of around QR40,000 a month, the group relies on the generosity of community members to help raise the money they need and provide help in kind.
Last year, the QAWS committee held a number of fundraising events and activities, which have helped gain the group exposure and helped to raise their profile.
They have held a number of quiz nights, table top sales and other events to raise awareness and funds to support their work. Last year, ‘Woofstock,’ QAWS’ annual event, brought together dog lovers from all over the country and served as an opportunity to meet potential volunteers and spread the word about what the group does.
“Anyone interested in taking part in our events should visit our Facebook page to find out more,” said Allen. The group is also passionate about educating the local community about animal welfare.
“We have a number of schools who bring groups to visit the farm regularly and we are looking forward to welcoming more students to get to know the animals and learn more about animal welfare,” added Allen.
Another area in which QAWS would like to start an educational campaign is related to the keeping of exotic animals as pets.
“We are seeing more wild animals being kept in homes here, with many people owning lions, cheetahs, tigers and monkeys, and this is something we would like to see stopped,” said Berry.
They also hope to see the conditions in the animal market at Souq Waqif dramatically improve, and have offered to provide basic training to the employees at the shops, to help ensure that the animals are well cared for. The group is hoping to achieve charity status this year, and would like to see animal welfare legislation, currently in the pipeline, passed in Qatar.
With the new laws will come regulation of areas such as Souq Waqif, and a general improvement in animal treatment throughout Qatar - something that QAWS hopes to see in the near future.
But for now, they are grateful for the tremendous support they receive from the community, and are looking forward to welcoming other like-minded people to join in their activities and help provide for stray and abandoned animals in Qatar.
“We are so grateful to the community and companies who continue to offer us fantastic support, and we hope this will continue over the coming years,” added Berry.
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