Although the pet owners came together to simply have a good time, they also wanted to raise their voices on the importance of animal welfare

Friday’s freezing weather forecast did not stop UAE residents coming together to celebrate their pets and raise awareness on animal welfare at the Abu Dhabi Pet Festival, which was held on Yas Island.

Enthusiastic animal lovers, pet owners, groomers and veterinarians took part in various programmes, including dog show competitions, ‘Woof Parade’ and a cat beauty contest. A majority of the crowd were expats who have made the UAE the home for them and their furry friends.

Although the pet owners came together to simply have a good time, they also wanted to raise their voices on the importance of animal welfare and the need for pet-friendly areas, such as parks and sidewalks to safely walk their dogs.

Christina Stanova, 27, school teacher in Abu Dhabi, is the proud owner of a three-year-old mini poodle. “I came to the Pet Festival to see what’s happening, meet other owners and have a look at the local pet-care shops and vet clinics.”

Stanova pointed out that she wished there were pet-friendly public areas to walk her dog.

“The most important aspect for me as a dog owner, is the issue of the lack of dog walking locations. I feel very restricted as I can only walk him around the house.”

She also noted that it is often difficult for her to travel with her dog, adding: “We need to get certain tests and pay vets, as well as different permits – so it’s a lot of money and many people are struggling with this, especially if they have more than one dog.”

However, Stanova highlighted that despite the travelling expenses, the yearly cost of maintaining her dog, vaccinations and food has been relatively affordable in the UAE.

“The cost to maintain my dog is not much. I just buy his food twice a month, which costs me about Dh150, and every year he has injections for about Dh400.”

Stanova also advised future pet owners to look at adoption instead of buying pets from stores.

Another expat school teacher, 26-year-old Meef Finn, came to the festival with her friend Matthias Jokel, who works for the Civil Defence, along with their two pugs, Finley and Indie.

“We wanted to come and check the event out because there aren’t many animal festivals and dog-friendly places in Abu Dhabi,” she explained.

Jokel stressed that he hopes more residents would raise awareness on animal care. He praised UAE’s recent law changes regarding the ownership of wild animals.

Meef also said that she hopes awareness on adoption would be raised, stressing that residents often abandon their pets a short while after purchasing them.

Johny, a 27-year-old owner of three dogs, also came to the festival to raise awareness on animal care. He is opening a business solely dedicated for animals, ‘Nine Tails Pet Grooming.’ He explained that the business, which will open in March, is the very first mobile grooming company based in Abu Dhabi.

Mars Ramiraz, who moved to Dubai from the Philippines, also raised the issue of implementing dog friendly areas. “It is very hard for our pets to go to public places and beaches, so I would appreciate more animal friendly places.”

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