Saviour of abandoned, mistreated pets
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As she remembers Brownie’s case of extreme abuse, a young puppy regularly beaten by teenage boys who owned him, there are tears in Ghada Bahsoun’s eyes. Nearly daily, she receives messages and phone calls to help out with abandoned, mistreated, no longer wanted and even tortured animals.
“Only a few days ago, I got a message from a lady telling me her sister bought a Teacup Pomeranian dog, a very tiny dog breed, for which she paid Dh30,000. Her mother, though, doesn’t like the dog in the house, so they simply decided to euthanise it. Luckily, the sister felt some remorse, and she called me before killing the dog, so we are now trying to find a new home for him,” said Bahsoun.
“One day, in late 2008, I noticed some guys setting up traps for cats. When I asked what are the traps for, they told me they are sick and need to go to the vet. I could see, though, that there was nothing wrong with these cats, so I made further enquires and found out they were being taken to be put to sleep,” she said.
Outraged that such cruel methods were used to keep the cat population under control, Bahsoun got together with three other friends and in 2009 founded the Al Rahma Animal Welfare Society, pledging to help animals in need.
“Killing cats just to get rid of them is not only inhumane and against the Islamic religion, but it also creates an environmental problem. Cats keep the mice population under control, so if you get rid of them, mice and rats’ numbers increase, so you have to use pesticides to control them, which are strong chemicals harmful to the environment,” pointed out Bahsoun.
In January 2011, the Abu Dhabi government finally introduced the no-kill policy, meaning that street cats are now taken to the vet, where they are sterilised and health checked, then returned to their habitat. The Pest Control Department, in charge of street cats, even relocates them if they see the local community mistreating them.
As soon as the word spread out about Al Rahma Society, Bahsoun and her friends began receiving increasingly more requests to help out. People beating dogs, teenagers throwing arsenic acid on cats or covering them in glue just for laughs, and pets that lived all their lives with a family but suddenly abandoned on the streets and unable to care for themselves are the usual problems the society faced.
Frustrated with the lack of support from the community, two of the four members eventually gave up, leaving only Bahsoun and Raghad Auttabashi to continue this work.
“We have no administration and no funding,” said Bahsoun, who pays for the animals’ hospital bills, food and boarding by herself.
“We tried to register ourselves as a charity so we can do fundraising, but because of legal entanglements, it is not possible to have an animal charity.”
Bahsoun would most welcome donations, though, especially in the form of pet food and vet bills.
“There are a few people out there like Sadiq, who gets up everyday at 4.30am and goes out to feed the cats in Musaffah area until 6.30am, then goes to Dubai for work, and when he comes back in the evening, he goes out again to feed the cats. He spends Dh700 out of his Dh1,200 salary to help these animals, so he badly needs help with animal food.” At the moment, the society only has six foster homes for cats and dogs and a handful of volunteers. With summer being the high season for abandoned pets, a lot more foster homes are needed.
“Last June, I even sent seven cats to foster homes in the UK,” said Bahsoun.
In fact, 20 of her rescued cats have been adopted by people in the UK so far, while another one dumped in Al Ain has found a new home in Washington DC and even a deaf and half blind cat rescued in Abu Dhabi now lives in the Philippines.