Pet theft is a thriving business across the emirates, claim owners
By Majorie van Leijen
Published Tuesday, April 22, 2014
The Missing Huskies of Karen Pryce
In October last year, British Dubai resident Elizabeth woke up without the usual presence of one of her puppies at home. The dog had disappeared, and it was impossible for Elizabeth to believe that he had disappeared by himself.
Her suspicion led her to a lengthy investigation with the help of Dubai Police. She was permitted to see security camera footage of her residence. The film showed a small bus arriving at the back door. An unfamiliar man stepped outside and started calling for the dog. It worked, and the dog was no longer part of the family.
The video was enough evidence for Elizabeth to continue her investigation, and the search led her to a Bird and Animal Market in one of the northern emirates.
Every week, a new person would stroll down the market so that potential sellers would not get suspicious. It was Elizabeth’s turn to go to the market when one of the salesmen claimed to have a dog matching her description.
Only after some clever negotiation, the seller agreed to show her the puppy. It was a match, and for Dh600 Elizabeth bought back her dog.
Not everybody is as lucky as Elizabeth.
Dogs go missing across the emirates and their owners are left without any clue, other than the rumours of organised groups carrying out pet-napping for money.
“This is a group of people, stealing pets in order to sell them. They know exactly which dog they want to steal, where and when. They break into houses to steal the dogs,” knows Raghad Auttabashi of the animal welfare organisation Al Rahma Welfare Society in Abu Dhabi.
Although she has never seen the evidence of a robbery, she says to be sure that this is a matter of organised crime, as the dogs do not just disappear. “It happens in the same areas, and people are after the same kind of dogs. It is very clear that these dogs get stolen.”
In another case of missing dogs, Karen Pryce, resident in Abu Dhabi recently lost two of her huskies. “
It was during the storm; our door had been blown. When we returned home, three of our dogs had disappeared. After an hour, one dog returned to the house, but the other two were gone. They would always find their way back to the house,” she recalls.
According to Karen, the possibility that the other two dogs were stolen is almost certain in the area where she lives. “When I was putting up posters in the area, one of my neighbours told me he was sure they would not be lost on the streets. Someone would have picked them up to be sold, especially since they are huskies.
“Everybody in this area knows what is going on here. There have been a lot of cases where dogs were picked up from the street and sold somewhere else, and huskies are a popular breed.
“As soon as I mention that my dogs are huskies, people get concerned. The vets, the pet shop owners and neighbours will all be able to tell you of stories how these dogs disappear and are later found in the market.”
According to Raghat, stolen dogs are not sold in the main market on Abu Dhabi. “This market is very well monitored. I have never heard of a dog being found there. But there are other markets where this practice is very common,” she says.
The northern emirate market has been known as the market where animal rights are disregarded. Pets are being sold in small cages, high temperatures, or without vaccination book, says Raghat.
As the market is poorly monitored, stolen pets can easily be sold there, as proved to be the case with Elizabeth’s puppy.
Suspicious that this may have been the case, K9 Friends posted a picture of two huskies in a small cage on its Facebook page. “These dogs were seen at an animal souk this weekend… if anyone recognises them,” reads the text. It is another disappointment for Karen. As much as they look alike, these are not hers.
“When you have a huskie, you just know you have to be careful. I recall many cases where I felt I was being watched as I was walking out the dogs. If I let them walk off for just a little bit, strange men would approach the dog.
This is a very serious crime and the police should take this matter up,” commented Raghat. This is theft, as any other case where property of a person is stolen.
Raghat advises people never to let their dogs out of their sight when walking them in public, and to castrate them to avoid the theft. “Castrating the dogs helps. These people are looking for non-castrated dogs, so they can breed them. I have never heard of a stolen castrated dog,” she says.