With innocent animals suffering worldwide in the name of everything from food and fashion to entertainment and scientific advancement, the need for improved animal welfare is more urgent than ever – and that’s what today is about.
Marked annually on October 4, World Animal Day is a social movement charged with the mission of raising the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe. And because change begins at home, we tapped three members of the relentlessly dedicated staff at Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre (RAKAWC) to reveal more about the country’s most pressing problems when it comes to animal welfare and how we can help.
The Head of Community Wildlife Services at RAKAWC, Lana manages the shelter side of things, overseeing the Marketing department, the kennel and cattery sections, and the dog park in addition to the stray animal control/rescue teams, the facility section, and community services as a whole. Interestingly, she’s an architectural designer with a double major by qualification. “I quit my job to fully dedicate my time and efforts to rescuing animals and educating the community about animal rights,” she says, explaining how her parents shaped her into the animal lover that she is today.
“The love I have for the animals is the most precious thing I inherited from my parents besides all the great life lessons they gave me about protecting and loving the voiceless. Since I was born, my family always had dogs and cats – they were always rescuing, so our house was filled with the love of and for animals.” According to Lana, there are a few areas of concern when it comes to animal welfare in the UAE. “To me, the most pressing problems are issues like unlicensed breeders, the lack of responsibility when it comes to pet ownership, and the lack of educational programmes.” Her take on what needs to change? “Implement and follow the law of banning puppy mills, adopting rather than buying, and spaying animals to reduce the population of unwanted puppies and kittens.”
Kittens, puppies, ducklings, and even a hedgehog – Raluca’s childhood entailed playing with all these animals, and then some. “For as long as I can remember, my love for animals has always been part of me. Every summer, I would stay at a farm for three months and enjoy their company. I also grew up with pets – a cat and two dogs – and my most beautiful memories are with them by my side.” The Marketing & PR Officer at RAKAWC, she coordinates all the events organised at the centre, adoption days included. “I am in charge of the marketing and PR campaigns, the centre’s social media presence, all local partnerships, and the educational programmes with schools in Ras Al Khaimah.” And it’s the latter that she says is most vital for progress.
“The lack of educational programmes is the main issue in my opinion. Where there is no proper education and information, the consequences will soon follow. We need to teach more people about animal rights, animal responsibilities, and protection. Also, our efforts here at RAKAWC are to change the mentality and influence better decision-making in the future, so that when people have to choose between buying or adopting a pet, they opt for the latter.” Echoing Lana’s sentiments, she advises people to advocate for the implementation of laws banning puppy mills in addition to adopting rather than buying. “This way, there would be fewer stray animals. Additionally, they should always consider spaying/neutering the animals in order to reduce the population of unwanted puppies and kittens that most likely will end up on the street.”
Dr. Magdalena Ozegovic
Like Lana and Raluca, Magdalena’s love for animals stems from her early years. “I grew up surrounded by animals, and I feel I always had a special love for them – the deepest and purest of love. I was maybe two or three years old when I first developed an interest in animals, wanting to play with them and observe them up-close. I remember going to visit my grandparents in the countryside and, as soon as I arrived at their house, I would go straight to see the chickens, the dog, the cats, the cow, and the horse. I would spend countless hours there, sometimes forgetting to even greet my grandparents!” she recalls. It’s no surprise, then, that she grew up finding her calling as a veterinarian. “I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to animals and work to give them a better existence, healing them from illnesses and protecting them as much as I could.”
As the Head of Wildlife and Clinical Services, Magdalena manages the clinical side of the RAKAWC, which spans everything from spaying and neutering to vaccinations and maintaining the overall health of the shelter animals in order for them to be adopted. She also leads the outpatient vet clinic and hospital. “In my opinion, the biggest problem is the unimplemented laws,” she asserts. “UAE has great laws regarding animal rights, but they lack implementation. Hopefully, this will soon change.” We asked her what one should do to help if they encounter a stray animal in distress. “The first and most important thing they need to do is stop and help. They should either take the animal in and go to the closest vet for a check-up or, if they are in Ras Al Khaimah, call our centre so we can immediately send the rescue stray team.”
So what advice do they have on how we can help their collective efforts at RAKAWC? For starters, it goes beyond adoption, if that’s not an option. “The most important help we can get is to have suitable families coming to adopt our dogs and cats, giving them a forever family with love and care – as they all deserve,” they say. “But if there are people who cannot permanently commit, then they can foster an animal and help them get more chances of adoption in the future.”
The fostering process can take anywhere between two weeks and three months, and it helps RAKAWC several ways. “Not only does it give us the possibility of using the space for another deserving rescue, but the animal also gets more trust in people and the chances of adoption will grow.” And if fostering isn’t an option either? Volunteer! “We need volunteers to socialise with our animals, to take the dogs for walks and spend time with the cats. And of course, every share on social media, every word of mouth counts as we need to spread awareness about the animals and their welfare.”