A Lebanese entrepreneur plans to test a new concept for a pet store in Qatar with the December opening of a three-story business in Bin Mahmoud in which animal lovers can buy pets and goods, as well as groom, train and board them in the same venue.
The upcoming launch of Mohammed Mokdad’s multipurpose pet store, Unique Pets, is already generating some concern from residents, who worry if the animals will be treated humanely and question the need for importing dogs and cats into a country that already struggles with a growing stray animal population.
But Mokdad said he is a trained professional whose store shouldn’t be judged and condemned before it even opens.
In a recent interview with Doha News, the business owner explained more about his concept.
Each floor of Unique Pets will house different aspects of the business.
One floor will hold dogs and cats, one will serve as a place for dogs to be groomed and boarded if their owners are traveling, for example, and one floor will house birds and fish.
While small birds would be caged, larger birds such as parrots will be able to fly freely around the room, with a tree provided for them to perch on.
“Their wings won’t be cut. A free bird is a happy and healthy bird,” Mokdad told Doha News.
Working with customers
Unlike most pets shops and rescue centers here, Unique Pets plans to import the majority of its animals and prides itself on selling only pedigree dogs and cats.
While birds and fish will be displayed at the store and ready for purchase, Mokdad said he will only import dogs and cats upon demand.
Potential customers should discuss what type of dog or cat they’re interested in owning with Mokdad, who will then send photographs of the type of animal he can import for them.
Mokdad said that he educates each potential buyer on the realities of owning a pet first, as well as explaining the typical traits of each breed.
If an owner wants a quiet, submissive dog then he should not own a Jack Russel, for example, as they tend to be loud and yappy, and dogs with thick coats should not be left outdoors, Mokdad said.
Although the store is still under construction, the businessman has already begun importing and selling a number of dogs and cats by phone.
By bringing animals into a country that is struggling to reduce and rehome a large number of stray dogs and cats, Unique Pets has caused a wave of backlash from residents, with some turning to the store’s Facebook page to express their anger:
Local animal rescue centers have also spoken out about the new venture, echoing similar concerns.
Rhonda Rooney, shelter manager at 2nd Chance Rescue animal center, told Doha News:
“Unique Pets is making the society worse. If the owner wanted to help the animals here, then they would open another rescue center or sponsor one of the existing ones to help take more stray animals off the street.”
But Mokdad argued that he is actually helping to reduce the number of stray animals in the future by addressing pet owners’ fears before they buy. He told Doha News that many pet owners abandon their dogs because they don’t actually know what they want.
“Another problem is people buy a puppy, and because it’s not trained yet it goes to the toilet in the house. The owners get angry yet refuse to pay the high cost of training the dog. There are also very few trainers here, so it’s hard finding someone. Owners then abandon the animal. I solve this issue by ensuring all of my dogs are house-trained before selling them.”
Mokdad said that he only imports dogs and cats that are aged between three and six months, because at this age they are more desirable and easier to train.
But shelter manager Rooney expressed concerns about animals being brought into Qatar at such a young age, saying it is unhealthy for pets to leave their mothers then.
Once the animal has landed in Qatar, Mokdad and his team train the animal to become house-trained by using a 1×1 meter area specifically allocated for the animal’s use.
The service is free and is done at the shop, but other training sessions, such as behavioral training, will cost a fee.
A third problem Mokdad acknowledged is the insincere operations of local pet shops:
“People are often lied to by sellers here saying their puppy or kitten is purebred. But when it goes older you can see it’s actually a mixed breed and that they have been lied to. People then get angry and throw the animal on the street because they want a pedigree pet. I ensure this doesn’t happen with me. I guarantee all of my dogs and cats are pedigree and they are FCI certified (Fédération Cynologique Internationale).”
When asked how he manages to import his customer’s animals, Mokdad said he brings most animals in from Ukraine, Malta, Serbia and Germany and it is through certain contacts at each of these locations that he is able to sort out paperwork and boarding for the animals.
“I import three animals at a time, which costs me a minimum of QR3,000,” he told Doha News.
To date, the businessman said he has a mixed customer based and the majority of them have purchased dogs such as German Shepherds, Pomeranians and Pugs.
For now, Mokdad only imports two breeds of cats, Scottish Folds and British Shorthairs.
Selling animals for a minimum of QR3,500, with a German Shepherd costing QR5,500 and other breeds around QR10,000, Unique Pets appears to be among the most expensive places to purchase a pet in Qatar, although the prices fall in line with international pedigree import and export sellers.
Once the animal is on Qatar soil, Mokdad says that he ensures each and every dog and cat is healthy before being handed over to its new owner, saying that he pays for any sick animal from his own pocket but has an ongoing agreement with Royal Veterinary Center that allows treatments at a lower rate.
Royal Vet also currently boards all of Unique Pets’ animals while the three-story shop is undergoing construction.
Mokdad added that he hopes Qatar residents wait until he opens for business before making up their minds about his store:
“People should stop judging me, telling me what I’m doing is wrong. I am a professional and this is a business at the end of the day. Qatar is expanding and there are always new businesses starting. Let’s all help Qatar expand properly, without fighting and judging. Wait until you see how I work before judging me.”