As many expats leave Qatar for good this summer, animal rescue volunteers are urging them to take their pets with them, so they don’t wind up as strays – or worse, shot to death.
According to many of those in the rescue community, the bodies of stray dogs who have been killed by guns are come across at least a few times a month.
Speaking to Doha News, volunteers at TNR (trap-neuter-release) Dogs Qatar said they recently went to feed two packs of 42 dogs and puppies by F-Ring Road, something they had been doing for over a year.
When the arrived at the spot, they came across eight dead dogs. Fearing for the rest, the volunteers sought shelter for the remaining pack.
But they said it took a great deal of time due to the over-capacity of most Qatar pet shelters at this time of the year.
According to Marguerite Cadegan, founder of TNR Dogs Qatar, the shooting of stray animals is a bigger problem inside of Doha than in less populated areas.
She added that for example, stray dogs in the Industrial Area don’t have this problem because people are less likely to complain.
While some people say that the local police officers are behind these shootings, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) said that the government does not endorse such a policy.
In a statement to Doha News, the MME said that it runs a TNR program in which trapped animals are checked for diseases and neutered, and then released either to the same area or to another area, depending on the complaints of residents.
However, animals that are behaving dangerously or found to be diseased are euthanized.
Animal abuse is a crime in Qatar that is already punishable through fines and jail time, but there is no penalty for abandonment, and enforcement remains lax.
In late 2015, officials in Qatar promised that tougher penalties would be implemented on animal abusers, as legislated by GCC countries three years ago.
Speaking to Doha News at the time, an MME veterinarian said:
“What this law would do, would be to standardize animal welfare rights across the region, and align them with other international conventions on animal rights around the world.”
Under this law, the killing of a domestic animal can warrant a three-month prison sentence and a QR2,000 fine.
However, it remains unclear what the penalty would be if the animal was a stray.
The number of strays in Qatar is not documented, but the MME’s Animal Resources department has been trying to register all pets that visit their clinic, as well as collect data from private veterinarians.
Efforts to microchip domestic animals to link them to their owners and from strays are also underway.
According to Cadegan, the main reason why the number of strays is increasing is due to people’s lack of research when buying a pet.
Not realizing the responsibility particular animals can bring, pet-owners find it overwhelming and eventually dump them on the streets, she said.
This increases the number of strays on the streets, and the number of complaints that lead to their shooting.
To further address the increasing stray population, the MME has been working to construct the country’s largest animal shelter in Umm Salal, it said in a statement.
However, this has been in the planning stages for years.
Meanwhile, Qatar residents are being asked to report any shootings and poisonings of stray animals.
For those leaving the country, here is some advice on how to take your pet with you.