“Everyone Can Be a Part of the Solution” – by Caitlin Farinelli
“Adopt; if you can’t adopt, foster; if you can’t foster, volunteer; if you can’t volunteer, donate; if you can’t donate, educate.”
This quote is prolific in the animal welfare and rescue community. Its message is simple: there is something that every single person can do to help animals in need, in any corner of the world. Many people are not in a position to adopt or foster a pet (and plenty have already adopted enough for three families!), but that doesn’t mean there is nothing they can do. Animal welfare situations are different everywhere, but there is always something that can be done.
What this quote does not mention is that in order for change to be made, and in order for an impact to happen, all individuals in a community must participate in one way or another, and regularly. For example, the plight of feral cats in my hometown of Jupiter, Florida is pretty straightforward. There are some cats living in a neighborhood, and some kind people feed them. No one is abusing them, attempting to remove them, or poison them. Their territory is limited by natural barriers such as roads, forests, and bodies of water, and they don’t have many natural enemies, except for the occasional fox.
One of the first things that people notice upon arrival in Qatar is that there are cats absolutely everywhere.
A concerned citizen noticed an animal welfare issue (cats breeding) and talked to her neighbors and made some calls to vets. Other neighbors stepped up to help feed and manage the health of the colony. A local charity stepped in to help with trapping and transporting the cats to the local humane society for treatment. This method is called trap-neuter- return (TNR). This charity is funded by donations, and the people doing the trapping and transportation are volunteers. Furthermore, in Palm Beach County, FL, all cats over 4 months and all dogs over 6 months must be neutered or otherwise be registered as an “unaltered” animal for quite a hefty annual fee. This is where the “everyone can do their part” really works.
It is a great example of animal welfare efforts working thanks to the help of numerous people and organizations. But if someone stops doing their part– if people stop volunteering for or donating to the non-profit organization, or the government stops subsidizing the humane society, or if law enforcement stops enforcing the spay and neuter ordinances– the well-oil machined would fall apart, and in the end, the cats would suffer. It truly does take a village, and there also needs to be a culture of expectations present in the community.
However, the situation in Doha, Qatar, couldn’t be more different, or bleaker. One of the first things that people notice upon arrival in Qatar is that there are cats absolutely everywhere. And not just near people’s houses and gardens; I mean everywhere! Cats can be seen in the parking garage at the airport; at hotels and restaurants; in public parks and gardens; apartment building parking garages; parking lots of malls and shopping centers. Almost every dumpster in Doha has a band of cats that live off it. There are also numerous stray dogs, and even packs of dogs, in Qatar. The population of cats is pretty much free to grow and expand as they like. Dogs are more limited but they do have pups while on the streets, or while living on construction sites or empty lands. These cats and dogs face many threats to their health and livelihood: in addition to being hit and killed by cars, people often poison or even kick or beat community cats. There is never enough food to go around, and viruses such as feline immunodeficiency can’t donate, educate.” virus (FIV) and coronavirus are rampant. The cats and dogs are also, for the most part, not managed well and not neutered. Neutering is not common or fashionable here, and is very expensive.
There are groups of volunteers that neuter and manage several colonies in public spaces, but they are funded wholly by donations and run by volunteers. Organizations such as these are not eligible for national recognition or sponsorship. They are very limited to how many new cats and dogs they can neuter and how many new colonies they can take over managing due to lack of funds and limited number and availability of volunteers in a very transient place. There are also individuals who feed a group of cats or dogs, get them neutered, monitor their health, and feed them regularly. But this is the exception and not the norm.
Knowledge—or lack of it—is another obstacle, as the majority of the population do not know the benefits of neutering or that the TNR approach is the most effective (and humane!) way of controlling the population. Most management companies of compounds and apartments will simply ask the government to relocate the cats to another location if the population is too high or if the cats become a nuisance. An alarming number of people, of all backgrounds, also believe that community cats and dogs simply aren’t their problem.
The truth is that community pets are everyone’s responsibility. The TNR approach is extremely effective at controlling the population and improving health of the animals, in addition to improving the livelihood of their communities. For example, neutered cats are happy cats that do not wander, fight, spray, howl, or, most importantly, make new kittens. And the same goes for dogs (yes, there is a very small group of people who are starting to organize TNR for dogs!). But even if TNR is adopted all over the country, there are more problems. There is an epidemic of people letting their pets outside when they decide they don’t want them anymore, or can’t have them, as they believe the animal’s “survival instincts’” will kick in (which they almost never do).
On top of that, Doha is a very transient place. Many people often have to leave Doha on very short notice. Pets need to have their proper vaccinations and paperwork to travel, and if these things aren’t prepared, people often put their cats on the street or try to convince someone else to take them. Getting pets adopted here is very difficult since so many people already have pets, or know that they might leave Doha soon and are therefore not willing to adopt.
The moral of the story is that in every community, there is something that can be done to help the plight of community animals. Even if your community is like Jupiter, Florida and runs like a well-oiled machine, help is needed. Adopting or even fostering makes the biggest difference. If that is not possible, volunteering with a local charity, organization, or even a loose group of people makes a difference. Volunteering can take many forms: it could be helping with feeding, transportation, training, recruiting, or outreach. It could be activity on social media or screening potential fosters or volunteers. It could be organizing fundraisers or events to raise money and awareness for charities and their causes. Donations are also crucial—both from individuals and from the local government. Finally, education is incredibly important, as it informs the whole cycle.
All of these actions are important, appreciated, and needed, in every community, whether it be Florida, or Doha.