My son wanted to have a pet dog but I refused while he was small. Then a year and a half ago, I finally caved and got one. I had deliberately delayed getting a dog because the haris (building guard) of my building where I lived warned me that dogs are not allowed in my building.

To satisfy my son’s instinct caring for house pets, I ended up buying gold fish, then love birds later and a rabbit. There was no complaint from the haris. However, every time my son saw a dog being walked by its owner he would remind me of his desire to have a pet dog one day.

So, when we moved to Farwaniya (from Maidan Hawally) the haris told me that it is okay to keep a small breed of dogs in the building. I ended up surprising my two sons with a dog. I saw the joy in the eyes of my son; the animal is small and well trained and a real source of happiness for both of my kids.

A year later, another cute doggie, a Maltese breed, joined our family. The previous owner couldn’t keep it because it was fighting with the owner’s other dog, a Chihuahua. The previous owner also faced complaints from his neighbors of too much noise emanating from the flat due to the dogs’ fighting and barking. So I ended up taking the Maltese.

The number of dogs as pets in homes and apartments in Kuwait has skyrocketed in the last decade. In the early 2000s, it was rare to see someone walking their dog on the seaside or at a park. Now there are pet cafes, numerous pet shops and even activities on the weekends for owners with pets.

Dogs make an amazing addition to a family. There is research to suggest that those with pets, including dogs, live longer. They are also typically very loyal, providing comfort and love for children and can serve as a great way to teach children how to love and respect other living things.

But in Kuwait there are many problems faced by pet owners, especially those who own dogs. Firstly, many apartments refuse to allow dogs as pets in their flats. Sometimes someone may get a dog without the landlord’s permission or against the terms of their rental contract only to be told by the haris that the dog must go.

Rolly from the Philippines was very fond of his Labrador, but his building wasn’t pet-friendly. “I got the dog when she was a puppy. She was playful, but became irritable and noisy during the mating season. This annoyed others, so people in my building began complaining about the noise to our haris, who told me to remove my pet from the building. Hesitantly and very emotionally, I abided by the wishes of the residents and gave up my dog to a Filipino veterinarian,” Rolly told Kuwait Times.

Another problem is that many people take puppies because they are cute and cuddly and easy to take care of but without any real understanding of the commitment. Dogs can live as much as 15 years or more and they essentially become a part of your family. So when they age out of puppyhood, what happens then? Or when families travel for summer?

The sudden explosion of dogs on the streets is a good indicator. They are visible in the mornings and late evenings scavenging for food. Since their numbers continue to rise, there have been reports of dogs attacking people in various areas of Kuwait. Some car accidents have also been blamed on dogs suddenly crossing the road without warning. There have also been complaints of dogs fighting and barking.

With the rise in the dog population, cases of animal cruelty and mistreatment have risen too. As a result, there has been a rise in rescue groups and there are now more than a dozen operating in Kuwait – though none with the support or help of the government.

An Indian woman named Sheila also shared how she has a very healthy and happy white Pomeranian. “I found Pluto after he was rescued by a close friend from an abusive house. I heard he was kept in the balcony of his owner’s house, and when he barked, was beaten. I got the dog when he was only eight months old – but he looked older, maybe because he was stressed. When the family went on vacations, he was left with very little food and water to survive in the summer heat. The owner decided to give him away, and since my friend knew that I love animals, she immediately took the dog and gave it to me,” she said.

“From the time I took the dog until now, I have been caring for him. It took him more than a year before he barked again. It was hard at first because he was abused, but all I gave was love and affection, so the treatment was quicker. Now the dog is two, and healthy and happy,” Sheila said. “Thanks to the compassion shown by my friend – if not for her, Pluto would’ve probably ended up on the road, just like so many dogs I see on the streets. The haris allowed me to give shelter to Pluto,” Sheila added.

Until the Kuwaiti government accepts the fact that the country is being overwhelmed by stray dogs, their numbers will continue to rise. Also, killing dogs with poison or chemicals is not the answer. Maybe the government needs to set up a center or shelter to care for abandoned dogs and treat them compassionately. Owners can surrender their unwanted pets at the shelter and the government can decide whether to give them up for adoption or put them down humanely.

By Ben Garcia