Paws for thought: Abandoned pets in Oman get homes despite costs
September 11, 2017 | 9:36 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan/[email protected]
Expats leaving Oman are dumping family pets in the street.

Muscat: After months of struggling to fend for themselves on the streets of Oman, six dogs have been re-homed by volunteers from animal welfare organisation Omani Paws, who have found them loving families in the United States.

But they could be the last of the lucky few, as hundreds of other dogs in Oman require adoption, but Omani Paws is struggling to re-home them. In fact, sending these six dogs to the United States alone has cost them OMR2,500.

Expats leaving Oman are dumping family pets in the street, and the knock-on effect for organisations like Omani Paws is financially drastic.

Comprised entirely of volunteers, rescuers take it upon themselves to shoulder the costs of providing care and medical attention for abandoned animals, but are currently saddled with debt upwards of OMR5,000, with the organisation owing that much to the Al Qurm Veterinary Clinic alone, in addition to smaller debts elsewhere.

“We’d just found a home for these dogs in the United States, when we were told of another dog that needs re-homing almost immediately afterwards,” said Varsha Karnik, co-founder of Omani Paws. “So many animals need our help because many expatriates bring a dog into their home when they come to Oman, but are not aware that taking the dog with them when they’re leaving Oman is very expensive.”

“We receive many calls regarding pet dogs, who’ve just been abandoned on the streets by their owners,” she added. “Expats who come to Oman are not going to stay permanently, so I would advise all dog owners in the country to set aside some money for expenses related to their pet.”

Before Omani Paws are able to put up a pet for adoption, either in the Sultanate or abroad, there is a lengthy and expensive set of procedures that need to be followed. Treatments, such as surgeries, vaccinations, blood tests, and even providing these dogs with food and shelter, does set them back quite a way.

“We had an OMR800 bill to settle with a veterinary clinic in Azaiba, but someone recently walked into the clinic and anonymously decided to clear our bills there,” said Karnik. “If a dog requires surgery, even after we obtain a very significant discount, it costs us about OMR150. If the surgeries are more complicated, then the cost of the surgery obviously goes up.”

“Initial vaccination and neutering comes up to OMR50 or 60 per dog, and sometimes, we need to microchip our dogs as well, so that adds on another OMR15 or 20,” she added. “The travel boxes for these dogs cost about OMR50 each, and that’s actually at a reduced price, because they normally would be bought for OMR95 apiece.”

Because they’re so cash strapped, Omani Paws extensively searches for the best deals on pet care and welfare in stores, so that they can get quality products for their animals, at a cheaper price than they would normally be expected to pay.

“Flights to the United States also cost about OMR150 per dog, because we had to file some export papers for these dogs, so the cost of the flight and these papers together came to that amount,” she added. “For the United States, it’s quite simple because most of these dogs can be prepared to travel in about two months, but when you send them to Europe, it takes much longer, because the preparation time is at least four months, since they need to be at least seven months old when they travel.”

“It’s much more expensive to take dogs to Europe and the United Kingdom,” explained Karnik. “We’d just sent a dog to the U.K. a few nights ago. She was rescued after she was shot in Ghala, and she still has bullet fragments in her face. A lady in the U.K. saw this post and she was happy to adopt this dog, so we did the blood tests, treatment, vaccination, everything, and then sent her on August 28. There is another extra blood test that costs OMR70, and that adds to our costs when animals are sent to the U.K.”

“In fact, we sent this dog to Amsterdam and she is being driven to the U.K., which cost another OMR250. To ship her to the U.K. would’ve cost us OMR1200, because customs fees and taxes are higher because they need to be declared as cargo. It’s very complicated.”

Karnik also encouraged others to help animals who cannot fend for themselves in the Sultanate.

“There is a big community of people helping us in any way they can,” she said. “We’ve managed to get the community together so that we can help them. It’s a good cross section of people from Oman, who are dedicated towards helping these animals, and it would be great if everybody could help towards the same.”

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