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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: Saudi health officials have issued reassurances that family pets cannot pass on the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to humans following reports of dogs and cats being abandoned and even killed by worried owners.
False news stories have led to many animals ending up as strays.
In a bid to calm fears, the Saudi Ministry of Health used one of its daily press conferences on COVID-19 to put the record straight with a statement insisting that “pets do not transmit disease.”
However, with some pets already banished to the streets, Saudi animal lovers have been coming to their rescue.
One of them is Sara Al-Odaiby, a 25-year-old former student who set up an online pet-themed miscellaneous store called Coexistence to help raise funds to care for abandoned animals.
Her Riyadh-based initiative relies on donations, yard sales and purchases of online merchandise to generate money to cover the costs of homing strays, caring for them and paying veterinary bills.
Operating through an Instagram page (@coexistence.sa), Al-Odaiby’s store offers quirky T-shirt and sticker designs based on the companionship between humans and animals.
“The ideas behind the designs came from countless brainstorming sessions between me, my friends, and family,” she told Arab News.
Feeling unfulfilled, Al-Odaiby took the decision to leave university in Dammam halfway through her course and move to Riyadh where she started reading about mindfulness and took up yoga.
After a trip to Egypt she became a vegan and started spending her free time helping at an animal shelter in the Saudi capital.
“At that time, I read a lot about canine communication, nutrition and force-free training. I wanted to help out at the shelter, play with and love the animals there,” she said.
After taking two dogs and nine cats into her home to care for them, Al-Odaiby found it impossible to hold down a job.
• False news stories have led to many animals ending up as strays.
• In a bid to calm fears, the Saudi Ministry of Health used one of its daily press conferences on COVID-19 to put the record straight with a statement insisting that ‘pets do not transmit disease.’
• However, with some pets already banished to the streets, Saudi animal-lovers have been coming to their rescue.
“They need physical and mental care. Some of them need to be force-fed due to dehydration and anemia, while others need reassurance and security after going through trauma,” she added.
Over time it became difficult to juggle work commitments with vet appointments, medical care, and feeding of the animals, which is when the idea for Coexistence came about.
After seeing an online post about a paralyzed dog in Riyadh, she contacted a group called Hearts Rescue Animal Welfare to offer help, and 15 days later the charity group delivered the bleeding and frightened animal to her home. It had bitten three of the staff during the journey.
“They brought her in a travel crate and told me she was aggressive. Her eyes told me everything; she was scared, hurt and hungry, not aggressive. I stayed with her that morning and read to her, cried with her and told her I was sorry.”
When the dog was released from its cage at the vet’s surgery it ran to Al-Odaiby and sat on her lap.
“I knew she trusted me, and I named her Jamilah. She taught me patience, kindness, love and compassion. Ever since, I’ve become obsessed about helping animals because I know I can make a difference in the world.”
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