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Wed 2 Sep 2015 12:15 PM

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The sad tale of ‘disposable’ pets

What happens when handbag pooches go out of fashion, asks Sarah Townsend

The sad tale of ‘disposable’ pets
Sarah Townsend

The problem with fashion is that it falls out of style. And it’s not just last season’s designer clothes that are so readily tossed from the wardrobe into the secondhand pile; pets are having a hard time keeping up with the trends, too.

Remember a few years ago when the ‘handbag pooch’ was the status symbol du jour? Courtesy of Paris Hilton and others of her ilk, mini dogs like chihuahuas and shih tzus had their time in the limelight, snapped with their paws poking out of the latest Chanels and Mulberrys in the fashion front rows.

Well, no longer. According to press reports, Hilton’s beloved dog Tinkerbell – the first handbag pooch, some might say – kicked the bucket back in April and, since then, things have gone from bad to worse.

A report from UK charity Blue Cross in July claimed the number of handbag dogs handed in to pet shelters to be re-homed has increased by 120 percent in the last five years.

The charity argued that many people think they want a dog as a fashion accessory or companion but then realise how much care they need, decide they cannot cope and give them away.

In the UAE it’s a similar story – but it’s not just “designer” dogs. Animal charities have reported record numbers of pets abandoned this summer and say they are stretched to capacity looking after them.

Common excuses are that their owners cannot afford to care for them, do not have the time to exercise them, have lost their job and are returning to their home country, or are going on a long holiday and do not know what to do with their pet.

Meanwhile, welfare groups have warned of alarming instances of pet neglect, abuse and abandonment. This week, for example, we reported on the sad story of “Pinky” the cat – dyed a luminous pink and put up for sale at Bahrain’s Isa Town Market.

Luckily, ailing Pinky was rescued by the Bahrain Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BSPCA) and taken to a refuge, where she is being treated for diseases, returned to her normal colour and nursed to health before being put up for adoption.

And, over in Qatar, the government plans to open a new animal rescue shelter in Doha because the existing ones are at capacity, Doha News reported.

Much has been written about the rising cost of living in the Gulf. And they say that, as well as macro indicators such as the price of oil, it’s the less obvious snippets of social information that provide a good barometer of economic conditions. 

If this is the case, it’s a sad reflection of unequal times that, on one hand, the Gulf has wealthy pet owners willing to spend hundreds of dirhams sending their dogs to luxury ‘pet hotels’ such as this one, which has a spa, doggie supermarket and bedrooms equipped with TVs; while, on the other, pets are abandoned because their owners cannot afford to keep them.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online