Pet shops clean up their act after Y’s special investigation, as campaigners vow to continue the fight for an animal welfare law
Words: Kate Ginn
Hurtling around his spacious play area chasing a ball, Elliot the Turkish cross kitten looks the picture of happiness. Yet just a few days ago, the adorable five-month-old was living a miserable existence in a tiny cage strewn with food, his fur matted with his own waste. Life looked bleak for the little cat.
Now, thanks to Y Magazine, he is receiving medical treatment at a veterinary clinic and is on the road to recovery – and hopefully a new home with loving owners. Elliot – as we called him – was one of the poor cats that we discovered as part of a week-long investigation into the unregulated pet shop industry, where animals are treated as commodities to be sold at the highest price possible. In-demand cat breeds can fetch upwards of RO400. We found malnourished cats in cramped cages without proper food, water or facilities, sick animals left without treatment and appalling, dirt-encrusted conditions. Our article prompted a huge response and sparked debates on social media forums. Disgusted readers contacted us offering to make donations and help the animals featured. We’re glad to say that it has already prompted one pet shop owner to clean up both his shops and make sure the animals are now living in an acceptable environment.
We came across Elliot in World of Pets in Al Hail, one of the seven pet shops that we visited across Muscat, from Qurum to Seeb, as we looked into how animals fare in a country that doesn’t yet have any animal welfare legislation or recognised bodies to protect them.
A pitiful sight, he was clearly in need of help as he pawed his glass prison. Elliot is now with PetCare Veterinary Centre in The Wave, Muscat, where Dr Svetlana and the practice manager, Angie, are caring for him.
A check revealed he was suffering from several health problems including chronic ringworm, ear mites, worms and cat flu. Luckily, he’s responding to treatment and while he has some way to go yet, he should be well once again within two months.
After a bath and some good food, he’s almost unrecognisable from the sad kitten living in a tiny cage we met just over a week ago.
“He’s doing very well,” said Angie. “He’s full of life, playing and eating well just like a regular kitten.”
Dr Svetlana said: “Many people who buy from a pet shop and then find out the animal is sick take it back to the shop and demand their money back or another one.”
PetCare has kindly waived its boarding fees for Elliot while he receives treatment there.
Y’s exposé last week has already prompted some change in the trade. When we revisited Amazon World in Markaz Al Bahja mall and Al Amzon World, its sister shop, we saw marked improvements after we spoke to the owner, Saleem, who instigated immediate changes.
There were clean cages, fresh paper on the floor, plenty of food and water, and toys for the cats, none of which were forced to share a small cage. The cats looked clean and healthy. “We would like to thank the staff of Y Magazine for giving us some additional ideas to improve our service and suggestions to make our pets happier,” said Saleem.
“Our store is now better. The animals, especially the cats feel like they’re in a home away from home. Everybody is welcome to give additional ideas to make our shop more comfortable for the animals and the customers as well.” Saleem also took a pregnant female Himalayan cross cat, Amimi, to get treated for cat flu.
“It’s a great start and hopefully other pet shop owners will follow suit and makes changes,” said Emily Shotter, who is part of Oman Animal Welfare Team (OAWT) for Oman Cat-astrophe and Dog Tails, which is putting together a team of volunteers to visit pet shops and work with owners to improve conditions. “If we keep up the pressure, we can get the others to act.
“Y’s article seems to have roused interest and we need to keep the momentum going. If there’s enough song and dance about it, the authorities will eventually have to act.”
The other pet shops we visited were Creatures World in Al Hail North, Animal World in the Al Araimi Complex, Creatures in SABCO Centre and Creatures Kingdom in Qurum.
Omani Paws, an animal welfare group, this week called for people to boycott pet shops to force the worst offenders out of business.