Photos by Nada Badawi
As Qatar’s summer heat sets in, with temperatures hovering around 44C (111F), residents are once again calling for improved conditions in Souq Waqif’s pet area.
A recently posted online petition asking authorities to take action to assure animal welfare standards are applied to the shops in the area has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures in the five days since it was published.
The pet souq has been the subject of concern and complaints for years, with residents charging that they are being sold animals with falsified vaccination records, and pets who are dehydrated, under-nourished and sick.
The new petition is expected to be hand-delivered to the Ministry of Environment’s Animal Resources Department, as well as the Director of Souq Waqif and the Head of Qatar’s Veterinary Licensing department, once it has reached its target of at least 2,500 signatures.
Its introduction states that tourists and residents of Qatar “love to visit the Souq, but get distressed when coming across the animal section.”
The full text of the more than 2,000-word petition goes into detail about the health and welfare issues that apply to the full range of animals sold in the souq. Speaking to Doha News, the petition’s creator – who asked to remain anonymous – said:
“This is a very sensitive issue, and it took me at least a year to summon up the courage to start the Facebook page in November 2012.
It is only once I was fully comfortable with my research and visiting the Department of Animal Resources that I decided to launch the petition. A great deal of thought was put into the wording of the petition and the original, which will be hand delivered, is going to have photographs attached.”
During a visit to the souq this weekend, Doha News observed one mother lecturing her nine-year-old son against buying a cat there.
After a great deal of arguing, Umm Ali finally gestured to a distressed, lonely cat locked inside one of the cages and asked her son, “does this one look healthy to you?”
The mother told Doha News that her son had been longing to own a cat for over a year now. She continued:
“But we’ve been hearing stories, not even rumors, that these pets are fed vitamins and end up dying the next day, so I brought my son to the souq today to show him how sick these cats look like in reality.”
Many residents have said they feel cheated after buying an animal from the souq. In February for example, Harriet Orlans received a puppy from her fiance, who paid some QR7,000 for a Pomeranian Terrier at the pet souq.
Orlans, who named her dog Amir, began to feel suspicious when he refused to be fed the “expensive” dog food that was recommended by the salesman.
“As the hours went on, I noticed that all he did was sleep,” she told Doha News, continuing:
“Around 3am, he started to cry, so I wondered if he needed the toilet so I put him on the newspaper and that is when the explosive diarrhea started. I put it down to him being nervous of his new home. It continued for the next 24 hours.”
Amir’s condition worsened the next day after Orlans noticed some blood in his stool. When she took him to the vet, she found out that he had contracted Parvovirus, a common contagious disease among dogs. He suffered a seizure that led to his death four days after he left the souq.
His documentation, which was issued by the Vet Life Clinic in Al Aziziya, stated that he had been vaccinated against Parvovirus almost two weeks before Orlans took him home.
But Orlans’ vet told her that due to his size, Amir could not have been more than 6 weeks old, and therefore would have been too young to receive the first Parvovirus dose a fortnight previously. Amir’s documentation stated he was older than 6 weeks.
Even in the summer months, animal traders at Souq Waqif often keep animals outside their shops in an attempt to attract buyers.
At one shop over the weekend, a Shirazi cat sat on display atop a bird cage filled with 10 lovebirds, as a shopkeeper tried to make a sale to one of his customers.
In another cage, a rabbit, imported from Egypt, was shaking continuously after the shopkeeper grabbed him by his ears to show him to another potential buyer.
“We have number one cats, dogs and rabbits – all in excellent condition!” said the shopkeeper, who declined to share his name.
Meanwhile, at nearby Beauty Fish, shopkeeper Mamum, who sells rabbits, turtles, fish and colored chicks, told Doha News that he has to place his pets outside to bring in more customers.
He told us that the practice of dying chicks was an “old one,” and that customers enjoyed looking at them.
However, when the temperature rises, he said he makes sure to bring the animals inside his air-conditioned shop. He also denied that any of his animals were diseased:
“If a customer’s pet dies, it’s normal because any pet dies,” he said, adding he has not received any complaints from customers.
Mamun, however, stated that his pets usually fall sick because they sometimes consume too much water, which subsequently leads him to take them to the souq’s vet.
Last Wednesday, Al Raya reported that a significant amount of birds have died due to constant exposure to high summer temperatures and lack of proper care.
Lack of medical history
The vast majority of pets sold in the souq are imported from countries like Egypt, Malaysia, Siberia, Pakistan and Holland.
Animals commonly shipped into the country include Shirazi cats, Maltese Egyptian breed dogs, turtles, rabbits, crabs, lobsters, chicks, salamanders, hamsters, parrots, and lovebirds.
Some customers have claimed that proof of vaccinations given for the pets are fake.
Vet Chandi Dharmarathna, who works at Souq Waqif’s Qatar German Veterinary Clinic, told Doha News that animals bought at the souq often lack a medical history, which makes them difficult to treat:
“It makes our diagnosis harder, because if I don’t know where the dog or cat came from, it is harder for me to know what they might have. So I check for persistent symptoms, like passing stool or sneezing, ” she explained.
Some of the most common diseases she sees among cats and dogs are Calicivirus, Feline Panleukopenia, Feline Rhinotracheitis, Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Adenovirus and Parainfluenza.
Animal neglect is a crime in Qatar that is punishable through fines and jail time.
Mohamed Samir, an Egyptian expat and salesman at Animal Kingdom, told Doha News that Qatar’s Ministry of Environment (MoE) and Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) make frequent inspections of the area.
He added that penalties are usually given to those who violate laws, but none were “serious” enough for the pet souq to shut down or operate differently.
Samir told us that in his opinion, lengthy delays between the arrival of animals into the country and their handing over to pet shop owners are to blame for the bad condition of many of the animals:
“It takes a lot of time for the pets to arrive at the souq – they usually go through all the legal procedures at the airport from being issued passports and permission papers to being transported from the cargo village, all while not having enough food or water for days,” he said.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Does that mean that the greatest nations are vegetarian?
Or it’s workers
I am not vegetarian, but that does not mean I or any other omnivore treats animals badly. The greatest nations are perhaps those who treat their charges with respect, including the way they die for our table.
if these pets are given the same importance of a cheap knick-knack I am not surprised they are treated so bad that chicks are dyed in strange colors, rabbits wear coats and shake and dogs die…quite a shame!
Please, please sign this petition. This abhorrent cruelty to animals is inhumane and must be stopped. I know first-hand that the documentation issued by these vendors is falsified. I rescued a Persian kitten purchased from the Animal Souq and was given the ‘documentation’. It stated that ‘he’ was one of a litter of four male persian kittens. ‘He’ in fact was a ‘she’ and was at least three months younger than stated on the ‘documents’. Was in a terrible state but fortunately came through it and is thriving now (as you can see in my profile picture). It is outrageous for Mr Samir to state that none of the violations are serious enough for the animal souq to shut down or operate differently. So blatant cruelty to animals is not a serious offence? And please don’t insult our intelligence with the ‘someone else is to blame’ argument. It’s pathetic. The vendors are to blame and the authorities who turn a blind eye. It is shameful and, when it becomes public which it surely will with this petition, another serious blight on the reputation of Qatar.
Sin to treat a mute animal in this way..Astagfurullah ….Once the Prophet passed by an emaciated camel due to hunger, he said:
“Fear God in regards to these animals who can not speak their will. If you ride them, treat them accordingly (by making them strong and fit for that), and if you [plan to] eat them, treat them accordingly (by making them fat and healthy).” (Abu Dawud)
Second, an animal should not be beaten or tortured. Once the Prophet of Mercy passed by an animal branded on his face. He said, ‘Has it not reached you that I have cursed the one who brands an animal’s face or hits it on its face?’ The Prophet of Mercy advised his wife to treat an unruly camel that she was riding kindly. Making animals fight one another for entertainment was also forbidden by the Prophet.
Third, Islam forbids using animals or birds for targets when practicing shooting. When Ibn Umar, one of the companions of Prophet Muhammad saw some people practicing archery using a hen as a target, he said:
“The Prophet cursed anyone who made a living thing into a target (for practice).”
The Prophet Muhammad also said:
“‘Whoever kills a bird or anything else without its due right, God would ask him about it.’ It was said: ‘O Messenger of God! What is its due right?’ He said: ‘To kill it for food…and do not sever its head, and throw it!’” (Targheeb)
Seems like the laws, regulations, penalties system is only paper work…there is NO implementation seen at all for any laws… If the health and welfare of human beings (migrant workers) are not taken care of, they aint going to be bothered about the health and welfare of these poor animals.
Look at the migrant workers being treated (almost treated like animals), so you think animals will be treated well !
True isn’t it?? Until Qatar officials do not go out and seriously take charge in implementing their laws and regulations, they will be criticised over and over again.
Parvovirus can live outside the body for 6 months, and can only be killed with bleach. Since I’m pretty sure the animal souq is never cleaned this way, every single dog bought there will have this disease. Ours did, and died within a week. This place is a disgrace.
Where do these animals come from? To get an import permit for a dog, it has to be minimum 4 months old…these are extremely young puppies in the souq, usually too young to be taken from their mother. That means these animals are bread here in Qatar (puppy mills), imported illegally, or the government has given them the permission to bring in animals too young to be sold. I’m assuming option 1 or 3, which leaves the government responsible to enact change here
Lots of excuses blaming everyone else for the problem….but heard that all before with the treatment of humans.
There should be more promotion of the animal rescue centres and adopting a stray or unwanted animal.
And government funding for the rescue centres too. It is unbelievable that this doesn’t happen in such a wealthy country. All we ask for is funding to launch a concerted programme for TNR (trap, neuter, release), vaccination and euthanisation (for incurably sick animals) and set up animal rescue centres which would be recognised as charitable organisations. With the correct funding and organisation, we could easily solve the animal welfare issues here. And a good start would be to close the Animal Souq. For good.
I recently went with my daughter and her friend to the animal souq since the girls are working on a project about animal abuse in school. We saw puppies in cages barely big enough for birds, without any water. When I asked the shopkeeper to give some water to these puppies he replied that he could not do that because they would get dirty. I was outraged! When I tried to give the puppies water the shopkeeper started shouting at me that I was ruining his business. I told him he was doing that himself by killing the animals. Also the turtles piled up in a bucket and the birds with too many in a cage upset us big time. Me, my daughter and her friend left the souq crying, we felt so powerless. I urge everybody to sign the petition! Hopefully it will lead somewhere but somehow I’m afraid that is will be another dead end….
We have to avoid that section of the souk as it makes me sick to see they way animals are treated there. Pray that this time there will be some positive changes but expect that little or nothing will change.
Aussiegirl, wishing and hoping doesn’t effect change. Please sign the petition, and make your voice heard whenever you can. Maybe next time, don’t avoid the Souk- go there and make a great fuss- they are breaking the law.
Where is the petition?
Hi Jen, there’s a link in the story – just click on the words “online petition” near the top, and the hyperlink will take you there.
This animal souq should be shut down, pure and simple. If anyone wants a pet why not go to the animal shelter where while I’m not certain I would think the animals are healthy and documentation is valid.
What do you expect if you see how people are treated
I was in the Souk Pet market area the other day for the first time and it broke my heart. If there was anyway I could have taken them all home, I would have. The kittens were the hardest to look at, they looked drugged with glazed over eyes and not moving, but to cry. A huge rabbit just layed out flat on the ground, what rabbit does that? One kitten seemed so full of life, playful – oh how I wanted to snatch him up before he looked like the others. The majority of all the animals/birds I saw seemed abused in some form or another. We don’t even let chickens in the US live on wire, yet here it is common practice. The kittens trying to stand on the wire was heart breaking. I have a hard time thinking about it. Animals are the face of the humans around them, it exposes their inner person.
PLEASE SIGN THE PEITION.
I suggest that MOI puts out an emergency number so that animal cruelty, a serious crime can be reported immediately, and vendors should know they will be prosecuted.
Even better, I also request that Qatar should institute licenses, which can only be obtained following some training in animal welfare. I am sure there are many organisations here in Qatar only too willing to undertake the training- if not, I hereby volunteer. No charge.
make proper pet shops with proper rules and regulations that are actually put into play. No one should be allowed to even bring half these pets into the country.
It is really sad to see animals treated in such a way. However, It is also the individuals working in these pet stores who are accountable. I do not care how little you are paid or whatever; there is no excuse to treat animals in such a way. For those animals that are dyed various colors they are completely submerged in the dye…I have seen it done. To be able to perform such acts on animals and hurt them in inhumane ways says a lot about those caretakers.
The store owner and those working within should all be held accountable.
The shop keepers do not need to be better informed; they need fired. I knew a homeless man who had a dog and loved and cared for it as best he could…and he had nothing. We need people who genuinely love and care for animals, that are interested in their well being, working at these stores. I do not care where you are from, what your financial background is, or anything else. It is common sense to know when you are hurting an animal and when an animal is not feeling well. It is sick to be so desperate to make money that you would torture innocent beings (that goes for everyone involved).
For the shop owners if it was my doing, I would have them arrested…but I know that will not happen so a very very large fine would do.
I feel so so sorry for the animals…inshallah things will improve.
inshallah. However, God does not enact laws, people do. God will not improve things, people are given the wherewithal to make the changes. It is called responsibility. To sit back and hope God will make it better is to misunderstand faith. WE have to do it.
Yes, I agree completely. Apologies if I made it seem otherwise.