Marriam Mossalli, [email protected]
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-09-22 20:17

Currently, there are no laws in place regarding the ethical treatment of animals besides how they should be slaughtered for human consumption. Halal meat adheres to a painless method of slaughter that begins with the animals being blessed. The absence of laws on treating animals ethically seems odd since Saudi Arabia follows Shariah law and Islam teaches us to love and respect all of God’s creations.
In fact, there is one specific Hadith (Al-Bukhari 3:553) which tells the story of a woman who locked up her cat and starved it to death. The woman was tortured and sent to hell for her actions. Thus, it appears rather black and white that the true Islamic perspective on animals shows that cruelty to them is not in line with Islamic teachings.
“Ideally, there should be strict rules and regulations implemented on how pet stores should operate,” suggests Sonja Svensek, the creator of PIN. Svensek said that many pet stores — and even veterinary clinics — are mistreating animals and keeping them in conditions that would be described as abusive to animals in countries where such laws exist.
“It angers me that certain individuals praise themselves on being animal lovers yet some of the worst treatment toward animals happen whilst in their care,” she said. “Some veterinary clinics and pet stores don’t ensure their animals have water at all times or that the pets are regularly fed. I was personally informed by a staff member I befriended at this one particular clinic who said this was ‘so we don’t have to clean the cages so many times.’”
PIN members often visit local pet stores and secretly take pictures or record videos of the blatant abuse from their phone cameras. There are a few infamous pet stores in Jeddah that are often the topic of discussion on the PIN Facebook wall. Recently, Pet-land in Sawary Mall was exposed for having a husky and her pups in a small single cage with hardly any room to walk. The posted video of the terrier kept in a tiny birdcage was sorrowful, especially with the haunting meows of a cat trapped in a cage close by. Fifa is another notorious pet shop that is known for housing an eagle and vulture in cages so small they were unable to spread their wings.
Horror stories of multiple cats all caged up in a single-occupancy cage or large dogs who are unable to stand up or even turn around in their confined habitat has unfortunately become common ground in the Kingdom where pet store businesses are on the rise. These pet stores are not only treating animals unethically, but also present a health risk for people who end up buying pets that are sick due to the unhygienic conditions they have been kept in.
But for Svensek it’s not just the establishments. “I have seen cats literally starved to death at the hands of their owners, a dog tied up so tightly in the garden shed that he couldn’t even move around,” said Svensek, “I always ask myself, ‘Why would these people get a pet in the first place?’” But she believes it’s not entirely the pet owners’ fault. Without a solid committee to provide resources or spread awareness, owners are simply ignorant or misinformed.
“When considering owning a new pet, you should ask yourself if your lifestyle and housing situation can provide it the life it deserves,” said Svensek. “Owning a pet is a big and costly responsibility. If it cannot be cared for in an ethical and proper manner, it should not be taken.” PIN aims to reach out to and assist pet owners who might need support and advice on how to treat their pets.
With the media and celebrities showing off their pets — sometimes exotic or endangered — as the ultimate status accessories, it’s no surprise that some individuals, especially the younger generation, will follow suit and buy themselves pets as well. “There are a number of people I have personally met who have been proud to show off their pet tigers, lions and hawks all caged in the smallest of spaces and kept in horrendous conditions,” said Svensek.
The question that arises is whether we should allow nonprofessional breeders or untrained pet owners to buy exotic animals that require specific living conditions and extra care? Often, they are not experienced or equipped to own these animals in their homes, but do so regardless. Specific breeds that are being imported into the country need to be strictly monitored. Should the government allow crocodiles and rare snakes to be sold, unregulated, to private individuals?
PIN’s hope is that some kind of governing body will be established to enforce strict rules and guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals in the Kingdom. But until then, PIN advocates are continuing to visit pet stores and clinics to expose abuse through their Facebook group.
“From voicing concerns about certain situations to helping to find loving permanent homes for animals that desperately need to be adopted, PIN is working to make this a more animal friendly community,” said Svensek.
And as Bob Barker used to always say: Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.

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