DUBAI: Many people have found that pandemic lockdowns can be isolating and sometimes depressing. Families were restricted to their houses and apartments, while children had to attend classes via computer screens in their bedrooms. Parents worked remotely from any space in their homes.
Despite the grim outlook, one of the brighter outcomes is that many people have adopted abandoned animals as pets to provide companionship and exercise.
Saudi Arabia is relatively new to pet adoption, but the younger generation is making great strides to correct common misconceptions and change long-held attitudes.
Shokran Aljihani (29), is the manager of Rahmah Animal Welfare Association’s adoption and rescue committee. This voluntary, non-profit organization was founded in Riyadh in May 2020. She was inspired to get involved because of her passion and desire to help inspire change.
It began with a group of people who were interested in animal welfare and the environment. They decided to create Rahmah in order to raise awareness towards animals. My family and me love animals so the passion for it started a long while ago.
Aljihani became passionate about adopting pets, and she met one Rahmahs member who introduced her to Rahmahs and the work it was doing. In May 2020, she joined the founding group in the hope that she could make a difference.
She said that she makes sure the shelter’s rescue, adoption, daily operations and daily operations go according to plan.
The association responds quickly to calls about injured or abandoned pets and sends rescue teams to pick them up. After any immediate health issues have been addressed, the animals can be vaccinated, spayed, or neutered, and then put up for adoption.
Photos and stories about rescued animals are posted on the group’s website. rahmah-ksa.com, and its Instagram account and Twitter accounts to try to find people willing and able to adopt them.
Aljihani shared that six cats and two baby baboons were saved shortly after she joined. She then moved them into her own home. The baboons were a particular challenge but rewarding.
Baboon adoption is not common, but it can be difficult to keep them at shelter 24/7 as they require extra care and attention.
Both are 3 months old, while the other is 10 years old. However, monkeys require motherly care.
Baboons are natives to the Sarawat Mountains in Saudi Arabia’s western region. Most of them can be found in the southwest, between Taif and Asir. They were also spotted last year, for the first-time in decades, in the central region of Riyadh in several neighborhoods.
Rahmah found the baboons in the southwestern region. They had been taken from their natural habitat, a problem that is common in the Kingdom. Aljihani admitted it was difficult to have them in her home due to their child-like behavior, but it has been fun.
She said that they do damage furniture but are kind to the cats.
She explained that Rahmah was founded because of a very important mission.
Rahmahs purpose is to protect animals. This is why it was founded, said Aljihani. We rescue and take care animals, and give them the medical attention that they need. We work to find homes for them, and we also try to spread awareness.
The hard work is paying off. Rahmah has saved more than 2,300 animals so far and assisted in the adoption of another 300. This has been possible thanks to the support of nearly 2,000 volunteers. The shelters team actively promotes coexistence, peace, compassion, and love for animals and the environment.
However, only five animal shelters exist in the Kingdom. More help is needed. Rahmah is trying to raise awareness by visiting schools across Riyadh and training and educating students on animal care and how they can help with rescue efforts.
It’s all about awareness. People haven’t been aware enough to be working on it, Aljihani stated. Saudi Arabia has many passionate animal lovers, but they are also working hard to raise awareness.
Rahmah plans on expanding to other cities. It hopes to open a mobile clinic soon that will provide services for both owners and animals on the streets.
Aljihani stated she believes animals are equal to human beings in their right to live happy, healthy lives.
She said she is so grateful for the support of her family. I spend so much of my time outside because I work in mornings and then go to shelter for hours. They take care and look after my animals.
Basma Altwejri is her friend and she supports her. She brought Pay It Forward to Saudi Arabia in 2016 to encourage people from all walks of life to make a difference in their communities. Pay It Forward is active worldwide and encourages simple acts of kindness every day.
Altwejri, a passionate supporter of non-profits and animal lover, felt compelled help Rahmah. She took over marketing and partnerships for the section about a month before.
Arab News reports that it was a gift from my mother. We were very young when our family adopted a few stray cats and dogs. As a child, I felt helpless. I wanted to help so much but couldn’t. We tried our best to help, but I didn’t feel that there was any group that could help with animal welfare. I just let it be.
As a child, she saw a gap in animal welfare, especially in Saudi Arabia, where a large number of exotic and domestic animals are illegally sold and traded.
Altwejri stated it was not ethical. I wanted to help.
Before she explored other opportunities to help animals in Kingdom, she began working with Riyadh’s Animal Shelter. Before Rahmah, the majority of options she found were one-person operations.
I tried volunteering with many non-profits, but Rahmah was so professional. She said that they care about animals with complete love.
It is necessary to reach a wider population. Rahmah’s success is impressive, but there are still many animals who need to be adopted. We need to give them a push. People don’t have a lot compassion for animals. They believe it is a secondary matter. But (the animals) can be helpless and will give you unconditional love.