Animal owners in the UAE are being urged to consider potential relocation costs before taking on pets.
One expert said she had witnessed a spike in enquiries over shipping fees during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus outbreak has had an economic impact in the Emirates and across the globe, leading many people to return to their home countries.
Rescue centre staff are concerned those forced to leave the country after losing work may abandon their pets as a result of expensive fees.
It is sensible to start an exit fund once you take as animal on so there are no nasty surprises.
Sarita Harding, Animal Action UAE
Amanda Hyden, owner of the Pet Sitting Company in Abu Dhabi, has had a surge in calls over relocation of animals during recent months.
“About 70 per cent of the people I speak with have no idea of the process or the costs involved,” she said.
Those travelling back to the US can arrange a transfer of their pets from up to five days before the planned departure, whereas the timescale for Australia, Singapore and New Zealand can be up to six months.
Ms Hyden said preparations to fly pets home should begin well in advance of any move date as some countries demand pets have up-to-date vaccinations.
“Most people have picked up their pets here in the UAE, so often have a nasty shock when they see how much they have to pay, especially for the health checks and certificates they may not have considered,” she said.
Saving funds in advance to fly pets home could soften the blow of unexpected animal transit costs.
Sarah Laidlaw planned to leave her post in Abu Dhabi as a veterinary receptionist in March and return to Scotland where her 10-year-old son could be closer to family.
As she prepared to organise the transit of her two rescue dogs and a cat, she was shocked to realise the costs involved.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit and international borders closed, Ms Laidlaw’s plans were put on hold giving her more time to raise the cash to fly her two three-legged dogs and a cat to Glasgow.
“All my pets were rescued from the streets and the dogs were especially traumatised,” said Ms Laidlaw, who has taken up a post supporting the homeless near Edinburgh.
“When I adopted the dogs from Animal Action I was in different circumstances and never thought it would be a problem to relocate them when moving home.
“I ended up a single mum and without a job.
“I had done my best to save some money, but it wasn’t nearly enough.”
Ms Laidlaw had no choice but to ask for help and borrow money from friends to ship Mason, a 5-year-old three-legged Saluki, and Willow, another three-legged dog, back to Scotland alongside her cat, Paddy.
Expenses included an import and export health certificate attested by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, priced Dh425 for each animal, and other veterinary services.
Travel crates can cost up to Dh500 per pet, while airport arrival fees pushed the price up further.
Boarding, ground transport and service fees were other costs while the main Dubai to Glasgow flight ticket came to Dh12,750.
One donor to come forward to help was Claire Laing, who contributed Dh10,000 towards the bill.
“We originally thought the cost would be about Dh9,000, but that then doubled quite quickly with all these extra charges,” said Ms Laing, who moved her own German shepherd dog to Dubai from Ethiopia in 2019.
“The final invoice was more than Dh23,000 for her three pets, but luckily there were other donors who also helped.”
Ms Laidlaw had few options, as rescue charities said rehoming two disabled dogs in the UAE would prove difficult.
“Both dogs had three legs so they were less adoptable, because of that we helped organise the relocation process,” said Sarita Harding, an animal rescue volunteer working in the UAE.
“The dogs would not have gone anywhere had it not been for Claire putting up some of the money.”
The charity currently has 80 dogs and 30 cats on its books and is running a large trap neuter release programme in Abu Dhabi to reduce the number of strays.
Ms Harding urged anyone looking to take on a pet to consider the cost of flying animals home when they leave the country.
“It is important people are prepared for these kind of costs when they take on dogs as there are considerable costs involved,” she said.
“Depending on the size of the dog, the crates can be quite large and that has a cost to ship by air.
“It is sensible to start an exit fund once you take an animal on so there are no nasty surprises.”
Updated: September 15, 2020 09:32 PM
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