When Lufthansa stops flying directly from Frankfurt to Doha next month, humans aren’t the only ones who will be affected.
According to animal rescue groups, the German airline provides the only economical route from Qatar to Europe and the US for medium and large dog breeds.
To prevent these pets from being dumped when their owners leave the country from good, five local groups are now asking Qatar Airways to make it more affordable to travel with large dogs.
The organizations – 2nd Chance Rescue Qatar, QAWS, Dogs In Doha, Rescue Saluki Middle East and Paws Rescue Qatar – warn that if the carrier doesn’t change its policies, many owners who don’t want to pay high transport fees will leave their dogs behind.
Currently, Qatar Airways will only carry dogs as accompanied baggage who weigh a total of 32kg or less, including their crates.
This means larger animals, including popular breeds such as Huskies, German Shepherds and Salukis, would have to be transported as cargo.
Some pet owners could see the cost of flying a dog increase from QR2,500 to as high as QR20,000, according to Alison Caldwell, co-Founder of Paws Rescue Qatar.
Such high fees would likely only worsen the “epidemic” of dumped animals in Qatar, because increased costs make it harder to re-home rescued dogs abroad, she added.
“In the end, it is the dogs who will suffer immeasurably – a total injustice for innocent beings that are only in the dire situations they find themselves because of humans in the first place.”
Qatar Airways has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Animal lovers in Qatar have also launched an online petition calling for “affordable relocation options” on Qatar Airways for expat pets.
The petition has so far garnered more than 3,000 signatures, and praises Qatar’s support for animal rescue organizations.
It also urged Qatar’s national airline to support these efforts by providing cheaper options to transport dogs out of the country.
“As a nation of majority expatriates, we bring our pets with us when we relocate, and we take our pets with us when we leave.
For an airline that is already our number one choice, we urge Qatar Airways to expand an invaluable service and update its excess baggage pet travelling policies while still remaining affordable,” it said.
Appeal for flight buddies
Alongside lobbying efforts, Qatar’s animal rescue groups have been trying to move as many rescue dogs out of the country before the Lufthansa route ends next month.
In a statement on its Facebook page, 2nd Chance Rescue is seeking help from residents flying Lufthansa from Doha in the next few weeks:
“Our partners in the US are working furiously to get foster/adoption homes ready.
Please offer to be a flight buddy if flying Lufthansa or contact us if you know of anyone flying with them. It costs the flight buddies absolutely nothing and it is the only and last chance we have of getting them out.”
If you would like to volunteer, you can get in touch with 2nd Chance Rescue here.