Abandoning Pets When Disaster Strikes: One Family Says No

With a crashing economy, mass unemployment and a series of natural disasters behind us, too many people are abandoning pets. Not this family.

A family rescued 22 cats from the streets of Abu Dhabi over a period of 10 years — and took them with when economic conditions forced them to leave. By: plizzba

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the issue of animal evacuation procedures, or lack thereof, came to light. Since then, we’ve seen a tsunami in Japan, an uprising in Egypt and flooding in the United States, events that precipitated large-scale evacuations.

In each case, helping the pets left behind became a global effort, with animal lovers all over the world donating to rescue efforts in faraway places, networking rescued dogs and adopting pets left homeless. The media have given extensive coverage to the hard work people are doing to ensure a place for these animal refugees.

A Family That Puts Its Cats First

Thinking of the great lengths some people will go to keep their pets with them, I get nauseated when I see so many wonderful pets in our shelters because people “couldn’t keep them” or couldn’t find a place to live with them. How can they justify abandoning pets, members of their family, because their options become limited?

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When I stumbled upon this article, I wanted to share it with the world. It’s about a family that made incredible sacrifices instead of leaving their cats behind when they were forced out of their home in the Al Shahama area of Abu Dhabi.

During their 10 years in the United Arab Emirates, Gayani and her husband built a family: a teenage son and 22 cats, most of which they rescued from the streets of Abu Dhabi.

Gayani and her family were in the habit of taking in stray cats, giving them any necessary medical treatment, training them to be indoor cats and then finding homes for them. The cats still residing with them were older or had special needs, making them less likely to be adopted.

Economic Upheaval Affects the Family’s Resources

When Gayani’s landlord shot up the rent for their villa, a consequence of the area’s economic upheaval, the family couldn’t afford to stay in their home of many years, nor could they afford the current market price for a new house. They had to move to a smaller place where they wouldn’t have room for their pride of cats.

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But unlike so many people who abandon their animals or dump them in the shelter when they can’t find a pet-friendly apartment, Gayani’s family didn’t give up on their kitties.

Their options were extremely limited. They could try to find homes for their “unadoptable” cats, leave them behind to revert to their former states as semi-feral strays or euthanize them.

They chose to do none of these things. Instead, they decided to take their cats back with them to Sri Lanka, their homeland, an incredibly costly and time-consuming process.

Watch this video to learn more about 1 of the largest — if not the largest — cat rescue sanctuaries in the United States:

Moving the Cats for Their Health

Gayani’s husband returned to Sri Lanka with 13 of the cats, and Gayani stayed behind in Abu Dhabi to manage 5 special-needs cats and 3 “garden cats,” the UAE equivalent to alley cats. When the time came for her to join her husband in Sri Lanka, she took the 5 special-needs cats. Not long after, a rescue was able to help send Gayani the 3 semi-ferals…and 1 lucky dog.

When I think of the Herculean effort that went into making sure these cats weren’t left behind, it makes me sick to think of how many Americans treat their pets like furniture, leaving them behind if they don’t fit into the new house. I want to give Gayani and her family a medal — and an enormous hug.

If Gayani and her family can go to such great extreme lengths to save their pets, why can’t we?

Tamar Love Grande

View posts by Tamar Love Grande
Tamar Love Grande, former associate editor, is a Crazy Dog Person who has fostered and found homes for more than 200 dachshunds in the past few years. Tamar lives in Los Angeles with her husband, her cat and far too many wiener dogs.

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