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JEDDAH: Crowded pet stores with barely enough room to walk. The kittens are separated from their mother in birdcages. Litter boxes and food are crammed into small spaces. People can buy whatever animal they want and go, no questions asked.

In Saudi Arabia, pet shop owners do not need a special license to open and run such a business. Conditions at pet stores and lack of accountability are two of the reasons animal shelters in Jeddah are urging residents to adopt instead of buying the animals.

Nour Fitiany, 24, volunteers at Open Paws dog shelter in Jeddah. She told Arab News: “Pet shops and breeders don’t always treat animals kindly. Their main objective is financial so for them it is not a problem to raise an animal or to keep it in a cage for long periods in poor health.

Open Paws takes steps to ensure compatibility between the home environment and the animal. He verifies that the house is suitable for the breed of dog in question and that each member of the family agrees to have a pet in the house. After the adoption process is complete, the shelter follows up to ensure the animal is treated with kindness and intervenes when needed.

Michelle Lee is the owner of Gus’s Hope, a home for abandoned and stray cats.

She told Arab News: “Although it costs you nothing, you are also helping a homeless animal find a place and have a home. I can never understand why people buy animals when there are animals that can already be found neutered, vaccinated, wormed and healthy. Adoption centers ensure that you will adopt the right animal.

She said there were cases where some stores had sold animals that were unhealthy and had illnesses. “They don’t care about anything but profit,” she added.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has worked with the GCC Animal Welfare Act, which aims to tackle animal cruelty.

Prohibited practices include declawing, tail docking, ear cropping, removal of vocal cords, dehorning, chemical castration, and the use of any chemicals that may promote growth.

Another aspect of buying pets that causes several problems is how people lacking information could end up with the wrong breed.

Buyers who haven’t done proper research tend to choose their pets based on appearance rather than breed characteristics.

“It’s not a good idea to focus only on looks: a Chow Chow, for example, looks like a real teddy bear but is not made for the Saudi climate and the heat causes them a lot of respiratory problems . Most people who give up on their pets say they didn’t realize they had to devote so much time and energy to them,” Fitiany said.

She explained that another reason people end up spending money unnecessarily is that they try to find a certain type of breed and think they can’t find it locally, or that those available locally are not available. were not ‘pure’.

However, it is the opposite case and the dogs entrusted to the shelters are, most often, pure.

What people need to consider before adopting a pet are the animal’s energy levels, what would require a more physically active owner, adaptability to the environment, health issues, financial needs and whether the owner has enough time, energy and money to provide them.

DJ Kennels owner Mahmoud Azzam told Arab News: “True purity and uniqueness, in my opinion, lies in educating people and making a difference in society by spending money to raise awareness. “.

Seeking and researching the right information with a willingness to learn can prevent cases of animal abandonment.

Azzam said this lack of information could lead to neglect and abuse.

“When you don’t know what to do or how to handle a certain type of breed, your pet may hurt you because you’ve treated it in a way that particular breed shouldn’t be treated. other side, you can also hurt the animal and endanger its life.

There is a wealth of knowledge out there, and with the right tools, people can do some research ahead of time to figure out what the perfect pet is for them.

Azzam said his reference tools are on Google and YouTube. “Here in the Kingdom, we still have to work on providing information. I suggest that when researching information, read English sources as their research and information is more accurate and up-to-date.

Fitiany suggested talking to people who had the same type of pet to learn more and seek advice from someone with experience, which could help with any mental preparation.

Communities of pet owners can be found on social networks run by DJ Kennels, Gus’s Hope and Open Paws.

Abandonment, abuse and neglect could be avoided if people banded together with authorities, Azzam said, and there were rules against exporting certain animals. It was people’s responsibility to report them to the authorities, he added.

Fitiany said authorities must step in and stop the sale of animals to pet stores that do not provide them with proper and clean enclosures, food and exercise.

“For me, ideally, I would like the authorities to close stores so that the acquisition of pets can only be done through shelters, where people can be properly checked to determine if they will be owners. responsible animals. There should be tough penalties for people who mistreat animals, whether inside or outside their homes.

Kristen T. Prall