Adopting a Cat or Dog in the UAE: Things You Need to Know

When you’re looking to get a pet, one of the ways to acquire one is through adoption. As there are more dogs and cats in need of caring and loving homes than there are people willing to provide this, by adopting a pet you save an animal in need who might have never had a family again. Before starting the adoption journey, make sure you can provide your new dog or cat with the care they require. In the blog section on our website, you can find an extensive range of articles regarding pet care. In this article we will provide some basic information about the adoption process which might help you along the way while on your adoption journey. 

What is pet adoption?

One might think it’s not important to define what pet adoption means, but there seems to be some misconceptions about what the difference is between an adopted pet, and a purchased pet. Scammers make use of these misconceptions and trick well-meaning potential pet owners that are looking to add a fur family member. Pups and kittens that are for sale, get advertised as adoption cases, pulling on the heart strings of those looking to adopt, resulting in people who were looking to adopt buying a pet instead. In other cases, pets are offered under the name of adoption and will be “shipped”, which after payment, never happens. Sad stories and adoptions sell, and ill meaning people make use of this.

Besides that the new pet owners get fooled, it also tarnishes the reputation of true adoption as scammers often charge exorbitant prices for their “adoption”, vaccines and microchips might not be in place, animals are sick, or animals might even never arrive at their new home. So when do we speak of adoption?

The general consensus is that when you acquire your new pet from a shelter, rescue, rescuer, or directly from the previous owner (a pet, not one they bred), you speak of adoption. When you get your new pet from a pet store, breeder (either commercial or occasional), you speak of a purchase. During the adoption process, the responsibility of the pet is transferred to the new owners of the pet. When adopting a dog or cat, you make the commitment to care for them for the rest of their life.

Where can I adopt a pet in the UAE?

In the UAE, you can adopt from a shelter, rescue organisation, rescuer, or an individual who is giving up their pet for adoption because they can’t care for them anymore.


An animal shelter is a facility where homeless animals live while waiting for a family to adopt them. They are cared for by staff, which usually mainly consists of volunteers and some paid staff. Animal shelters will vary in capacity, size, and the adoption processes they have. Besides finding unwanted animals new homes, shelters will almost always neuter pets prior to adoption as not to contribute to the dog and cat overpopulation, and in some cases will actively participate in some form of animal welfare education. 

Rescue organisation 

Rescue organisations in the UAE are ran by private individuals and don’t always have a facility to house the homeless animals. Rescue organisations that don’t have a facility, often use paid boarding and foster homes to house the dogs and cats in their care. Rescue organisations often work with adoption events to help find their animals new homes.


Rescuers are people that rescue animals in need, either under the umbrella of a rescue organisation, or as individuals when they come across an animal in need. Just like with the rescue organisations, they rarely have a facility and homeless pets are either temporarily housed in their own home, a foster home, or paid boarding.

Yara was adopted by her foster family after they were unable to find a family for her.

Which place should I choose to adopt from?

Shelter, rescue organisation, rescuer, a pet that is for adoption through an owner, all sources are ok as long as you make sure you are dealing with genuine people. Sadly, there are many scams around playing on the good heart of potential pet owners. Make sure to meet the dog or cat in person before going forward with the adoption. Stay away from sources that will ship a pet to you, can only show you a picture, have an exorbitant high fee, or any other red flags.

Do I have to pay for an adoption?

It depends. By law, in the UAE only licensed shelters and rescue organisations can charge an adoption fee. This means that if you adopt a pet directly from an owner who doesn’t want their pet anymore, legally, they aren’t allowed to charge you anything. 

The adoption fee that shelters and rescue organisations charge is to cover all the costs they have while rescuing animals, like vaccinations, microchips, neutering, treating them for internal and external parasites, medical treatment of sick animals, food for the animals, boarding if they don’t have their own facility, etc. Each shelter and rescue organization can determine its own adoption fee. In most cases, adoption will be cheaper from the shelters than the rescue organisations. No matter where you adopt from, the adoption fee is only a fraction of what the upcoming pet care can cost, and one should always be sure they can carry this cost when they adopt. 

What costs can I expect after adopting a pet?

  • Pet relocation cost. As the UAE for most of us is not our final destination, the relocation cost of moving to another country needs to be kept in mind. In some cases, this move comes unexpectedly and faster than one might think. Before adopting a pet, make sure you can carry the relocation cost of your fur family member. Prices of this will depend on the destination, so it will be useful to find out beforehand how much it’s expected to cost and plan accordingly.
  • Food & treats. Good quality pet food isn’t cheap and finding quality food for your pet is important for their health. They will also appreciate the occasional treat.
  • Toy/bed/collar etc. You can make it as crazy as you want, but your pet will need basic daily supplies like toys, a collar/harness, leash, dog bed, food bows, scratch pole, etc
  • Vet. You might get lucky with a healthy pet that only sees the vet for their vaccinations, but they always have a risk of getting sick. A sick pet that requires care might cost thousands, or even tens of thousands of Dirhams. When choosing a vet for your pet, always do your research and find a trustworthy and reputable clinic. It’s always advised to save up for vet costs that may happen in the future, or to take medical insurance for your pet.
  • Dog walker/pet sitter/boarding/daycare. Depending on your pet and situation, you may need to find care when you travel or are at work. Make sure you use licensed and reputable companies only

I adopted a dog/cat, what now?

Congratulations, this is an amazing and exciting time. Keep in mind that your new family member still needs to get to know you and might need time and space for that. We understand that it’s hard not to shower your new pet with cuddles and attention, but all the changes and attention can be very overwhelming for them. The best you can do now is let your new pet take the lead. If they come to you on their own accord for cuddles, feel free to give them, but if they don’t want to come close, let them have that space. 

To help your pet settle in, there are a few things you can do. Most dogs and cats love routine as it gives them stability and predictability, and newly adopted pets often love to have a sense of what to expect, so try and keep to the same schedule each day. Slowly your pet will start to feel more secure and comfortable, and their new house will start to feel like a home. This process can easily take up to 3 months, or even more, so be patient with your new fur family member. Make sure that your house is secure and be mindful when opening doors and windows as newly adopted pets might try to escape. 

For dogs, try and keep their walks predictable. Later on, your dog most likely will appreciate exploring different routes when on walks, but newly adopted dogs that feel anxious usually do better if you stick to the same route at the start. It’s advised to walk newly adopted dogs on a double lead (1 collar + leash and 1 harness + leash) or a 3-strap harness to prevent escaping. With a double lead, you use a collar and a harness, and one of the leads you can hold while attaching the other on your body. This way in case of a sudden bolt, your new dog will be safe and secure even if the leash gets pulled from your hands. By using a collar and a harness you add extra security in case your dog slips out one of the two when backing up. A 3-strap harness, like the Ruffwear Webmaster Harness, has a 3rd strap around the waist, making it a harness the dog will not be able to escape out of when backing up. 

Make sure to register your new pet at your chosen veterinarian, and if you live in Dubai at Dubai Municipality. While shelters, rescuers, and rescue organisations will vaccinate, health check, microchip, and neuter their animals for adoption, if you adopt directly from someone you might need to have this done. If the pet is already registered at Dubai Municipality, you might need a NOC from the old owner to be able to transfer ownership.

Adopting a pet

Is a wonderful thing to do. Like they say, saving one pet will not change the world, but surely for that one dog or cat, the world will change forever. Through this article, we hope to have answered any questions one might have about adopting a pet in the UAE. Would you like to know more about our pet care services? Feel free to contact us. Our team will be glad to help.

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