[Source]There’s a story behind these bleeding eyes.
PAWS (Protecting Animal Welfare Society) got a call on January 1 this year from a frantic Indian lady who saw young Kuwaiti teenagers torturing two friendly stray dogs by the beach at Fahaheel Sea Club. The boys were trying to gouge their eyes out and even managed to cut a tail off from one of the dogs. PAWS managed to save both dogs who, despite the brutality, didn’t give up their trust in humans and actually allowed themselves to be lifted into the rescue car without any growling. Now the pair, Texas and Georgia, are at the shelter recovering from their trauma.They lucked out, but most other animals in Kuwait aren’t as lucky.
PAWS, along with other animal rights organizations in Kuwait, receive at least one case of an abused animal every day, which averages at 7-10 cases per week. “These are just the cases which are reported to us; but obviously the statistics are higher as most go unreported,” revealed a member of the organization. Awareness about these animal rights’ groups has helped to generate more active participation from the public over the past few years, but the violence has been consistent.
In a majority of the cases, the dogs are left tied to a tree or fence for days together without any water or food in the desert heat – or on building roof tops with the assumption that they will guard the place. In more obvious cases of abuse, flesh or bones can be seen as a result of beatings or deliberate injuries. Death would seem a better option for those who have been set on fire on the beach, had their legs, tails or ears cut off, dumped in the desert to starve or had their eyes gouged out. Cats haven’t had it easy either, with some being bundled into fishing nets or thrown into the rubbish bin to die.
Season to abandon
Karen, one of the co-founders of PAWS and K’S PATH in Kuwait revealed the story of Maddy, a small Poodle mix, a few years ago. Maddy’s owners tied her neck to a fence with a metal wire and left her out in the sun to die. Teenagers would beat her on the way to school every day until she was found by a couple who untied her and got her immediate medical attention. The vet discovered that her skin had grown over the metal wire and she required around 75 stitches after the wire was removed from her flesh. The couple adopted Maddy and moved to Dubai, where she leads a peaceful life after her ordeal here. While Maddy lived to have a name and someone to love, a tabby cat, which had its back legs tied with a metal wire and couldn’t move or jump into any bin to scavenge for food, died nameless because of starvation.
Karen, a passionate animal lover and hardcore activist, has had 17 years of experience rescuing animals in Kuwait. She says that even though there has been a drop in cases since she’s lived here, the summer season always witnesses a rise in animal cruelty. “People travel in summer and abandon their pets on the streets or in the deserts. Why? Because it’s the easiest way to get rid of them. Someone had even dumped a horse in the desert with a bucket of water, thinking ‘Hey, he won’t be able to make it back home from here!’ This is easier than having to take the trouble of leaving it at a shelter,” she says.
Two weeks ago, a cheetah was reportedly drugged and dragged around by its tail in Abu Hassania area by “amused” teens in broad daylight. The half-conscious animal apparently tried to hide under the shade of nearby cars but to no avail. Karen says, “There’s a link between animal abuse and psychopathology; youngsters who abuse animals grow up to become serial killers.”
Karen also recently found an eagle dumped near a bin. It was clearly in a state of shock and when she realized that it was still breathing, she rushed it to the Royal Animal Hospital. It was treated for severe starvation before being handed over to K’S PATH, who made sure it was healthy before releasing it back into the wild. Rumour had it that it was dragged around near the Friday Market a day earlier. This is just one of the many stories Karen can recount in Kuwait and has seen enough abused animals to author her own book.
‘Education, education, education’
So where exactly is the problem? Is it a lack of conscience? Or a lack of rules? Karen says that it’s a bit of both: “The problem is the lack of animal rights’ laws and their enforcement.”
But there’s one thing that’s completely within reach, “Education, education, education! If children are taught empathy right from a young age and made to understand that animals feel pain, just like humans, a lot could be achieved,” she says. She added that if there were constructive things for the youngsters to do here apart from just go to the malls and shop, like if they had Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to channel their energy into something useful, the beaches and the environment can be saved. “Nobody knows that something as mindless as throwing cigarette butts into the ocean can kill tortoises when they consume it,” Karen says.
Apart from lack of awareness, sterilization is a big problem faced by the shelters, who struggle with unsterilized strays which multiply during breeding season. “A lack of funds can be added to the list,” said an unnamed source who revealed that shelters run mostly on funds collected through charities, Open House events, and donations – which aren’t a steady flow or sustainable income. “From the minute an injured animal (or bird) is taken in, the shelter pays for its medical expenses, rehabilitation, sterilization, vaccination and food apart from other needs until it’s adopted again – which amounts to a lot per case,” he said.
An ‘evil’ called the Friday Market
The Friday Market in Kuwait might as well be rechristened ‘The Dead End’ as far as birds and animals are concerned. This place is notorious for almost having as many animals as the Kuwait Zoo: Kangaroos, monkeys, baboons, snakes, endangered tortoises and reptiles, bears, exotic spiders, parrots, macaws, coloured chicks, monitor lizards apart from many others can be seen – some with the DHL stickers still attached to their cages. The animals are housed in abominable settings and subjected to severe weather conditions with very little to eat or drink. Large dogs are stuffed into small cages to save space, and gain sympathy from visitors who might end up buying them to save them. On the other hand, tiny chicks are dyed toxic neon colours like pink, green, red, radiant yellow or blue to attract potential buyers. Many chicks die during the colouring process as they can’t withstand the wetness or the cold. The ones who survive end up with damaged internal organs because of the toxins in the dye.
Karen recalls saving a group of baby rabbits, which were trying to hide under the shade of a car to stay cool: “Unsold animals are thrown outside like garbage,” she said. Most exotic animals, like monkeys, are smuggled into Kuwait from Asian countries like Indonesia and Thailand, or even Hungary, “They are drugged and smuggled in suitcases, and many die even before reaching Kuwait because of the lack of ventilation,” she said.
In fact, the Friday Market has been such a bone of contention with animal lovers that a website called change.org, which encourages people to fight for issues they care about deeply, has more than 200 people signing a petition for its closure. A page entitled ‘Kuwait: Close down the Animal Friday Market’ reads: “Animals are kept in terrible life threatening conditions in Kuwait’s harsh climate with no AC. Puppies, wet and dirty, and most infected with parvovirus, along with cats, are all put in small bird cages with hardly any space to move. Animals there are suffering horribly before dying every day!”
Price to be paid
The violence is senseless. And sometimes there’s a quick buck to be made.
Vandana, an Indian expatriate, found an Alaskan Malamute with a belt tied around his neck, being dragged around in Mangaf. When she asked them to stop ill-treating it, they said they would – if she bought it. She paid KD 12 and brought the injured dog home to save it from them but when she walks him, she has people asking her “How much? How much?” hoping to buy it from her – and perhaps sell it again to someone else.
An Alaskan Malamute is, as the name suggests, a breed meant for the cold climates of Alaska – not a harsh desert ambiance like Kuwait. She says that she encounters difficulty walking him outside as his paws – which definitely aren’t suitable for the Middle Eastern climate – burn in the heat. “I’m also worried about what he might eat because of the poison left out in the streets to kill strays”.
Vandana pointed that some residential buildings change their policies on pets overnight and ask the tenants to either get rid of their pets or vacate within 15 days’ time. “This is very little time and forces them to abandon their pets, which they might not have chosen to do otherwise”.
Change in policy or not, nothing can possibly justify her neighbours’ act of throwing a rabbit from the roof “just to see what would happen to it”.
P.S. Some pet owners hesitated to provide pictures of their pets out of fear that the previous owners who abandoned them would track them down and want to take their pets back – now that they have received medical attention and appear in good health.
eXpatVoices: I read this article in the Friday Times. Seeing the picture of ‘Carlos’ on the front page and reading about the mistreatment by the local children was really sad. I really wanted to hug the dog but he is now no more as he had to be be euthanised.
Read more about [Animals abuse in Kuwait]
DO NOT buy pets from Friday Market.