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A fundraising initiative has been set up to assist expat owners in financial hardship trying to get their family pets back to their home countries with them.
Inge Michiels has started selling donated items and accepting donations to help families transport their beloved mutts and moggies, after hearing of the plight faced by many people losing their jobs or finding their contracts suddenly severed.
The Emergency Relocation Fund was set up only a few weeks ago and Belgian expat Inge, said: “We have seen heart-breaking situations occur, and the owners’ unwavering loyalty to their pet as they frantically try to find a way to relocate their beloved family member.
“Through every setback, no matter how big, these owners never have a second thought about not overcoming these challenging and very emotional situations.
“This is what inspired our Emergency Relocation Fund. The pet lifeline has been created to provide dedicated pet owners, who are truly in need, a form of support to relocate their animals. To raise money for the fund, we sell pet items donated to us by our generous and loyal customers.
“Expat life can be very unpredictable. Unforeseen circumstances occur causing you to relocate, which can result in the devastating realisation that you cannot afford to take your pet back with you.”
Inge, 44, runs JetPetGlobal, a division of Fur and Feathers, established in 2012 and based near the airport, after the founder found herself regularly taking care of her friends’ pets and was also helping out the occasional acquaintance who left Bahrain with their pet.
She is married to management consultant Frederik, 43, and they have two children. They arrived in Bahrain in 2005 and are now settled in Amwaj Islands.
“The response has been very warm. People know expat life can be very unpredictable and I think a lot of people can relate to it,” she added.
“When I realised we needed a fund, I knew we could not just put another donation box on the veterinary counters.
“Customers have left us pet items before to use, or to give away, so we now hold on to the nice things instead of giving them to pet-related charities.
“We’ve had cat scratch posts, travel crates, water fountains, dog beds and dog toys. The prices vary but are way below market value to make it a win-win for everybody.”
Expats leaving the island have often been blamed for adding to the stray dog crisis on the island. Inge hopes this initiative will play a small part in helping find a solution, although she’s not convinced these owners are by any means the main cause of the problem.
“I only partially agree,” she said. “Yes, people sometimes only see one way out, especially when life changes very unexpectedly and there is no time for planning. But there are enough people who contact us to suggest that left behind pets are only a part of the stray issue.
“It sort of implies that only large desert mixes are left behind and all the cute cats and dogs travel but, lucky for them, small pets often find new homes easier when they can’t travel – the stray issue has much more to do with birth control.
“Price may be an obstacle, however, when people are moving out, they usually have items to sell which usually cover all costs.
“The real problem may be that people pick up animals from the roadside and fill up their homes with all the best intentions, but then, when their contract runs out, reality hits hard. The cost combined with a large number of pets makes it really difficult.”
The hassle of paperwork often scares people too as well as necessary health checks, veterinary certificates and booking flights, which is where relocation services come into their own.
Relocation prices vary but prices heavily depend on the destination and the airline used. A regular European transit city is London and to bring a cat to the UK could cost around BD800. And, importing pets from Bahrain to the US, as another example, also requires careful planning as requirements may vary from state to state.
“That sounds like a lot of money for a cat you may have picked up from the street,” said Inge, who also offers pet courier and sitting services. “People forget that pets too may need a passport and visa and then they also need vaccinations, anti-parasite treatments, a safe crate and a cargo flight.
“Lots of people are also involved doing administration and handling – even taxes have to be paid upon entry. Some countries may allow a passenger to bring a cat in luggage and that makes it a lot more affordable. The downside is that your pet is handled as luggage and during the summer that is something many may want to avoid.”
For more details about the Emergency Relocation Fund visit https://www.jetpetglobal.com/jetpet-global-is-launching-an-emergency-relocation-fund