You can hear the Qatar Animal Welfare Society’s (QAWS) farm before you even see it, a cacophony of barks, woofs and the occasional neigh echoing behind the trees. The farm on the outskirts of Doha has been the shelter’s home since Janet Berry first discovered a pair of puppies abandoned at the gate of her boarding kennels and cattery in 2003 and decided that rehoming them wouldn’t be that hard. Since then, she and the other volunteers who run one of Qatar’s largest animal shelters have been inundated with unwanted animals.
But that’s all about the change: QAWS has announced their lease is up, and they have until June 1 to vacate their current location and find a new home for themselves, and the homeless animals they shelter.
‘The current shelter is based on a private family farm and we have large numbers of volunteers and their vehicles coming down on a daily basis which can be a bit disruptive for the farm workers who run the rest of the farm. At the end of our last contract we were advised that it was not being renewed and that we would need to find a new location. This is due to the fact that we have basically outgrown our current facility as we have grown in popularity over the years,’ says Kelly Allen, one of the organizers at QAWS.
‘We’re in talks at the moment with various individuals and authorities but so far we haven’t had any pieces of land offered that are suitable for us.’
And the clock is ticking: Allen says they must move before the deadline, or else face the world’s worst house move in the searing Qatar heat. To fit the bill, they’re looking for approximately 10,000 square meters, within a half hour drive from the center of Doha to allow them to continue their educational initiatives with schools and community service programs with various companies, as well as being easily accessible for volunteers.
‘The location of our current shelter is perfect which is why it’s so frustrating to have to leave! Being on a farm set back from the residential areas allows us to house large number of animals without disturbing residents and also gives us plenty of area for walking dogs and hosting events,’ says Allen. ‘We are looking for a piece of land where we can be secure for three to five years as we are continually striving to become a registered charity and would ultimately look to owning our own piece of land in the future.’
In 2007, the UAE government stepped forward and gifted K9 Friends with a purpose-build dog shelter, when that animal welfare group faced its own eviction. Similarly, the Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was given land by the government to construct their shelter. So far, no such gifts have emerged from the Qatar government.
‘We are currently in talks with the Ministry of Environment to see if there is anything they can do to assist but we are exploring as many options as we can to help increase our chances of finding a new location quickly!’ says Allen. ‘It’s so important to have a shelter facility like we have now as we are the largest rescue group in the country and we’re contacted on a daily basis regarding animals needing our help.’
This is especially important as Qatar continues to struggle with animal rights.
‘Animal welfare in Qatar unfortunately doesn’t really seem to be improving. We understand that there are some animal laws coming in to effect which will definitely help the matters, but we are still seeing the same number of abuse and neglect cases coming in to the shelter,’ says Allen. ‘The Souqs and pet shops are still a real problem here in Qatar and we always advise never to buy a dog or cat from them. We are very disappointed with the increasing number of exotic pets being kept here - especially the big cats and primates.’
All of this leads to a shelter that isn’t just full, but overflowing: making it even harder to move to a new location.
‘Currently at QAWS we have approximately 130 dogs and puppies, 70 cats and kittens, 12 rabbits, two terrapins, two donkeys, one cow, one horse, three goats and dozens of chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and pigeons!’ says Allen. ‘We’re always full! We try to run a system where when one animal is adopted out to a family, another is taken in to the shelter. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you adopt out one dog but have a litter of eight puppies waiting to come in! We prefer to house our adult dogs individually but due to space restrictions, a lot of them are paired up which means we are constantly over-capacity. Our biggest problem is the large number of animals that are dumped outside the shelter. In one week alone we had 11 dogs and puppies left outside the gates and when you’re full anyway the problem arises of where do they go? We regularly have puppies temporarily housed in our office or taken home with one of the committee and they are taken into the shelter as soon as a space can be found for them. Cats are a little easier to manage as we now have three communal rooms where we have multiple cats living a “free-range” kind of situation! We do have a number of individual cages for those that are anti-social with other cats, under medical treatment or are new to QAWS but again these are normally full. When you then add in to the equation 10 or more rabbit hutches full of bunnies, we’re always tight for space!’
They’ve spent the last few years rebuilding their facilities to house their menagerie, after a 2009 fire leveled the site. Allen says all of their portacabins and storage sheds can be moved to a new site, but they’ll have to rebuild the majority of their shelter for the dogs and all the farm animals.
‘It’s frustrating that we’ve finally built ourselves back up again after the fire only to have to move to a new site but it’s something you just have to accept and start looking for a solution,’ says Allen.
And, she says they don’t really have a choice: they’re the only home these animals have.
‘We are confident we will find a new location and to be honest, we have to as there is no other facility in Qatar that has the facilities to take in all our animals!’ www.qaws.org
How To Help
Donate: QAWS always accepts donations, of cash to help pay down their veterinary bill or supplies. Or, sponsor a kennel or cat condo for QR50 per month. Check them out on Facebook or at www.qaws.org to find out how to help!
Or attend these fundraising events to help raise awareness and money for the big move!
The Fur Ball
Radisson Blu Hotel
Their biggest rundraising event of the year takes on even more importance this year. Featuring live entertainment, dinner, dancing, a raffle, silent action and limited complimentary drinks as well as a bubbly bar, it’s a chance to bust out your formal wear for a good cause. The yearly event regularly sells out so book early! Tickets are QR450, 7pm-late. To reserve tickets email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Great Doha Posh Frock Pop Up Shop
Garvey’s European Family Club
Donate a ‘posh frock’ (formal dress, ball gown, cocktail or party dress) to sell with 100 per cent of the profits going to QAWS or have your dress sold on your behalf with 20 per cent of the final sale price going to QAWS and 80 per cent back to you. You can also donate or sell handbags, shoes and jewellery. Clothing of all sorts (high street, designer or tailor made) are welcome, but items should be clean and in reasonable condition for sale. On the day of the sale there will also be stalls selling accessories and services to complete your look, plus refreshments. Entry for shoppers is QR5 at the door. To donate or sell items, email Kirsten.email@example.com, to sign up as a vendor email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call 5570 9462 or check out their Facebook page.