By Anjali Jacob
In an exclusive interview with Qatar Today, Paws Rescue Qatar founders, Allison Caldwell and Emily Blenkinsop, share their experiences, insights and future plans.
Paws Rescue Qatar is a non-profit animal rescue shelter which was started in 2013 by two friends Allison Caldwell and Emily Blenkinsop. They got things under way by holding fundraisers for animals who required surgery and finding homes for stray animals in Qatar. Since then Paws Rescue has been expanding in numbers, both in terms of animals as well as volunteers. These days the name Paws evokes some kind of reaction from almost everyone in Qatar. After winning the Qatar British Business Forum’s (QBBF) ‘Work In The Community’ Award 2017, Paws has come further into the spotlight. So, what was the motivation behind starting Paws Rescue Qatar, and how did Caldwell and Blenkinsop connect with each other?
“We met via Facebook. Emily was working in a veterinary clinic as a receptionist at the time,” says Caldwell. “We both had an interest in animal welfare. We were involved in a couple of rescue acts and tried to help each other as much as possible. That’s how we started speaking initially.”
Caldwell adds that they also started to take dogs in and shelter them at the vets where Blenkinsop was working at the time. “Eventually we outgrew the place because people were tagging us in posts on Facebook and the number of animals was increasing. So we had to move into a bigger place. We also couldn’t call ourselves Allison and Emily, so we came up with Paws Rescue Qatar.”
What makes Paws Rescue different from other animal shelters in Qatar are the various partners that it has collaborated with in other countries, says Blenkinsop. “We aim at sending a lot of the animals out of Qatar. We collaborate with around 20 international groups to which we send animals. We also help each other by raising funds.”
“We aim at sending a lot of the animals out of Qatar. We collaborate with around 20 international groups to which we send animals. We also help each other by raising funds.” – emily Blenkinsop, Founder, Paws rescue QAtar
Commenting on the number of animals currently in their shelter, Blenkinsop says: “Right now, we have 115 dogs and 120 cats. It’s the lowest number we’ve ever had. At one point we had over 200 dogs.”
Regarding the fundraising efforts of the organisation, Blenkinsop says that most of the money is contributed by her and Caldwell. “We either put in the money ourselves or we hold fundraisers. So we try to do a few big fundraisers every year. We organised the Annual Paws Ball recently, which we conduct every October, and that really raises enough money to pay off a bit of our bills and send some animals out of the country. We also try to keep some money aside for ongoing expenses like cleaning supplies, latex gloves, etc.”
However, Caldwell mentions the fact that fund-raising initiatives are not always enough because they have got full-time staff which needs to be paid. So, in order to raise more money Paws Rescue also provides facilities for boarding of animals whose owners go on vacation.
The rescue missions of Paws Rescue are not the happiest of experiences, and Caldwell cites one example which has been etched in her memory. “There was this dog Arturo, who was dropped from a window in Ain Khaled. We got a call saying that there was a Saluki lying there which couldn’t move. We rushed over and took him to the vet. He had two severe fractures in his hind legs and his nerves had also been severed. It took him almost a year to get better. We helped raise funds for him and now he has been adopted by an amazing family who’s going to take him with them to England.”
As far as getting to know about which animal has been abandoned where, Caldwell says: “We usually get tagged in posts on Facebook and receive messages on our website. We also get calls from the vets, and of course we find many animals on the streets as well.”
Caldwell had recently said that some pet owners feared the cost of flying a dog increasing from QR2,500 to as high as QR20,000. It was felt that such high costs would probably worsen the plight of dumped animals because increased costs would make it harder to relocate them. Has Qatar Airways addressed this issue in any way?
“Now, to fly a big dog to the US, it will cost you no more than QR3,000, including the crate charges. So it is very amenable for rescue groups and owners.”- Alison Caldwell, Founder, Paws Rescue Qatar
“We recently approached Qatar Airways on this issue and they did come around and reduce the cost. Basically now, they’ve increased their accompanied baggage limit to 75kg, which allows any animal to fly as accompanied baggage,” says Cladwell.
She adds: “Now, to fly a big dog to the US, it will cost you no more than QR3,000, including the crate charges. So it is very amenable for rescue groups and owners. UK has different laws and restrictions so we’re always very specific about the animals we send there.”
And finally, Caldwell and Blenkinsop talk about the facilities at their shelter to make life exciting for the animals, which include cat lounges and exercise areas for dogs. “In our communal cat lounges, we encourage people to sit and socialise with them,” says Blenkinsop. “As for the dogs, we have large communal exercise areas where they can play together with their balls and toys, and they get their daily walks as well. Caldwell also adds: “We have volunteers that come in every week, who are completely in love with certain dogs that they can’t keep; so they come and take them out.”