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MOST EXPATS ASK US .... answered by Natalia Dolidze, Managing Director of Pets Habitat LLC
Why are puppies & kittens more expensive in Dubai when compared to Europe, USA or other parts of the world?

This question does not have a simple answer. Primarily, please note, there are very few ethical and knowledgeable breeders of quality dogs and cats within UAE, particularly fewer to none when it comes to pure breed dogs. There are no UAE registered animal clubs governing breed standards, breeding programs, ethics and showing of pet dogs and cats as it happens in other countries. This reflects on majority of population not being serious enough about breeding dogs or even cats in UAE. Or it could also be the other way around and lack of dedicated breeders indicates deficiency of canine / feline associations...

Weather conditions and lack of sufficient open pet friendly space are other reasons expats do not wish to get into any thoughtful animal breeding programs. When it comes to the local population, Islam does not promote dogs as companions, only as long as they serve a purpose such as security, police work, etc. Most Emiratis are also financially well-off, so money is not the motivation. Consequently, most companion pets are imported into UAE by either expats or licensed pet stores like ours.

If you have ever brought in a pet into UAE from UK, Europe, Australia, USA or another country, you are probably not the one to ask this question in the first place. However, if you have never imported a pet and would like to get an idea of the process involved in selection, boarding, care, tests, documentation and shipping of our puppies and kittens, I would encourage you to read our Importing & Selling page to avoid the repetition. All of these essential factors are associated with ongoing expenses, mostly in Euros, and we are not willing to cut costs on the ethics, health, breed standard or comfort of our animals in order to bring you cheaper puppy or kitten!

We encourage our prospective customers to get a quotation from any source before choosing to buy a pet from us. If anyone feels they can get the pet of our quality, matching our local Health Warranty and health reports with additional luxury of choosing the pet after seeing, feeling and ensuring "the connection", we recommend the customer imports/buys the pet directly without using our services. The price of our pets also includes cost of time, effort as well as consulting service we provide in ensuring you get a home-raised pet, suited for your lifestyle, with good health and social behaviour.

Needless to say, Dubai is an expensive place to operate a business in terms of retail rents, high trade license fees and even higher costs involved in hiring and accommodating foreign staff, not to mention all other, hidden from obvious view ongoing business expenses you may not even know exist. You can also think of it this way: a bottle of still mineral water is available at Carrefour for AED 1-2, but a restaurant within the same mall sells the same water bottle at AED 8-15 or even higher. You have a choice of going to the source to buy it from Carrefour or pay premium price at the restaurant. As you can see, the operating costs of a business have to be considered and tolerated if you are to use the service. Same applies to our business. We emphasise quality and ethics, and only encourage discerning pet enthusiasts to buy from us. We always patiently try to explain our view point and the nitty-gritty of our complicated trade to everyone, and we are proud of the fact that we end up convincing most of those willing to listen and understand.

Why do we sell our pets a bit more expensive than other shops or importers within UAE?

Aside of what has been talked about above, think of "Blood Diamonds" from Sierra Leone as an example. If only everyone in the world would know or care to think about the origin of diamonds from a troubled region! The atrocities the diamond workers go through and the extremism funded by this trade. If everyone with a conscience would stop buying diamonds of such origin and insist on humane source of their jewels, gradually, the trade would diminish. We hope you get our point and analogy.

It's not everyone's fault. People are just not aware or have not done enough research before heading out to a pet store to buy a puppy or kitten. We often come across shocked expressions when we quote price of our puppies (or kittens) to expats. A puppy may look cute and cost less in other shops, but surely you do not want to encourage puppies being raised in small cages in commercial farms, where countless adult dogs and cats are kept and bred in appalling conditions without much human interaction, medical care and love companion animals require and deserve. Think about it and go for healthy, home bred puppy/kitten, raised in suburban homes within family environment by breeders you can reach out to.

Even while losing to our competition selling puppies/kittens at lower prices, we, at Pets Habitat, never cut our costs by picking our puppies from puppy mills/farms or kittens from commercial breeding setups! We WILL NEVER support such operations and WILL NOT tolerate any form of cruelty towards animals. We choose to uphold our ethics and I would rather shut down our store than succumb to buying from mills and farms for economic reasons. Our puppies are guaranteed home-bred and raised, they are purchased directly by myself, the owner of Pets Habitat, and flown to Dubai by Emirates. All the information on their background is available and 100% transparent.

Do you really want to encourage puppy mills? Do you know that by ordering a puppy from internet-based company abroad or by buying a pet from an importer in Dubai without asking for some proof of puppy being from a home based origin you may save fraction of money, but you are inadvertently fuelling the puppy mill production? We suggest to do a bit of in-depth research on commercial puppy/kitten breeding setups that produce mass supply of various breeds in all sizes and colors you desire, and then decide if you would like to pay for a pet that you do not know the exact source of. Puppy mills often rely on excessive inbreeding and puppies often begin to show genetic problems within months or first years of life. Inbreeding means mating brother and sister to save on the hassles of finding the right stud / new blood line and to increase production quickly to satisfy the demand of cheap puppies/kittens. If you still decide to overlook the ethics and humanity in benefit of your budget and are still considering that questionable cheaper puppy – think of the vet bills your cheaper puppy will generate in best case scenario only to maintain all the ongoing health issues of poor breeding practices and unsanitary conditions from the very start of your puppy’s life. Often your cheaper puppy will end up being another statistical death figure contributing to puppy mill trade turnover. On the contrast, home bred pets from genuine breeders’ homes are healthy, sparing you massive expenses of vet bills, already well socialised with family members often including kids, pets, and are ethically bred and raised with no element of cruelty involved at any stage. Whatever way you see it, it makes no sense to support commercial mass breeding of puppies and kittens in farms or mills.

And while you may still be in doubt about that cheaper puppy you’ve seen coming from Hungary, Slovakia or Ukraine, you should be aware of recent import regulation changes implemented by UAE Government. There is a valid reason UAE authorities have applied an age restriction ban on import of dogs and cats from these countries. Puppies originating from Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine and several other termed "high risk" countries must be above 6 months of age upon entree into UAE and only following mandatory Titre test to scrutinise and ensure complete absence of Rabies virus. Reasons for these recent import regulation changes are to protect UAE environment from any chance of fatal viruses and other serious health issues puppies arriving from above mentioned “high risk” countries may carry and spread. Sadly, in the last few years the number of "puppy farms" sky rocketed in these countries based on demand for cheaper puppies and kittens, spreading inhumane treatment and unsanitary conditions animals are born and living in.

Once again, we believe we are the only pet store owners, who have actively taken the initiative to import strictly home bred and raised pets. We hope other pet stores/importers will follow suit. Please read our Importing & Selling page for more information on detailed process involved. We are confident enough on the quality of our pets that we offer you a 30 day "Money Back Guarantee" based on any serious health issue (please read our Health Warranty). We offer more value for your money and less hassle involved than buying cheaper, but unhealthy puppy or kitten from unethical source with not enough medical scrutiny or observation, love and care. You must be aware, the vet bills in Dubai will quickly surpass the cost of the pet in case of even minor health concern. So please think through and don't be thrifty when it comes to taking home a lifelong companion.

Why do we import from Italy?

In short - simply because we can communicate with breeders directly in their native language. As many of you are aware, most people do not speak fluent English within most of EU outside major touristic city centers. This makes it hard for English speaker to communicate freely and easily with good and reputable breeders based in smaller towns of Europe. In order to buy from breeders directly and not from a supplier or puppy mill one must be able to speak the native language of the country the puppy is imported from. In the past, I had to rely on a few reliable and trustworthy personal contacts to access the breeder network of EU, but this approach left a lot to misunderstanding, to chance and the possibility of error. Moreover, in a situation where I depend entirely on someone else to choose the puppies for me, I have no control over breeder’s reputation and background, breeding history, selection of the puppies and have no direct access to the breeder if any additional information is required at any time or a question is raised by our customers.

A touch of personal history: when I remarried not long ago I never thought my husband would become involved into my business. Fast forward to today, we are able to speak directly to breeders of Italy through my husband’s native Italian. This allows us complete 100% direct access to the breeder network, their homes and environment puppies (and kittens) are being raised in, to view the parent animals, to select the litters and to hand pick the puppies one by one to then bring into UAE. All our puppies literally come straight from breeders’ homes in Italy to ours in Dubai, there are no any other places they must stay or lodge, breeder is the last person who drops his/her puppies at one of major airports in Italy to be shipped same day directly to Dubai.

Italy is also one of the closest points of EU to UAE with only roughly 5+ hour direct Emirates airline flight time away. We choose to ship our animals by Emirates for airline’s reliability and one of the highest standards of animal ethics onboard, strictly adhering to IATA rules and regulation always. We also prefer Emirates as direct flight to avoid any unnecessary transit points of other airlines to eliminate any additional stress to our animals and to reduce the risk of possibility of contracting any minor health concerns while being exposed to other pets during transit time of other stop-over flights.

Any information you may want to know about the breeder is available, all our puppies and kittens are fully traceable online, all come from registered parents whose details are available, including photos and breeding background. Any additional questions you may want to ask or any additional information to know is only an email away if my in-store team is unable to answer or clear your doubts.

I am sure I can import puppy at a cheaper cost myself, how do you justify your pet prices?

This is one of the most frequent lines we hear verbally or receive by email: to justify the price of certain puppy or kitten. Despite all the explanations we may provide, the customer often remains suspicious that we are still just hiking up the price to generate the larger profits. Therefore, I have decided to go a step further and break down our basic costs in aim to demonstrate that the only cost possible to reduce while importing pet animal into Dubai is the cost of the pet itself!

So let’s break it down to the actual figures. Since we import our pets from Italian breeders, the currency used is Euro. The most important cost is the cost of the puppy (or kitten). When carefully selected from genuine and reputable breeder in Italy, this cost is NEVER below Euro 1,000 for any puppy of any breed. Registered breeders who breed ethically invest their time, money, careful attention and love into thoughtful breeding of their dogs or cats. There is an evident standard to adhere to, breeders will not sell their litters cheaply and rush to breed their female animals again to yield quick profits. All canine breeding in Italy is governed by ENCI (member of FCI) or another kennel club, all parent dogs must be registered by law, birth of all puppies must be recorded, and violations of the law may even land the breeder in jail. Moreover, any breeding done without pedigrees of both parents, even if only one parent dog is missing the pedigree, is automatically considered mixed breed as per Italian law.

Genuine breeders want to know where their puppies/kittens go, who is going to be the owner, where will their puppy/kitten live, why we are interested in their litters. It takes time to discuss, explain and build enough trust for the breeder to only consider selling to us. Let’s take good case scenario that our selected breeder agrees to sell us his/her puppy. Based on rule of averages, let's assume figure of Euro 1,300 as the price payable to the breeder for one of our chosen breed of puppies. Let's also pretend the breeder is kind enough and understanding to agree to hold the puppy free of any additional charges until 15 weeks of age (mandatory minimum age of entree into UAE from “low risk” rabies countries like Italy). So far this is very optimistic scenario, but let’s say we are lucky.

Now we need to purchase transport box to ship the puppy in to UAE, the cost is between 60 to above 200 Euros depending on the size, breed, IATA regulations and availability. Let's suppose the puppy is of smaller breed and that cost stays on lower side of Euro 100. So now we have the cooperative breeder, the puppy and the transport box. Our cost so far is Euro 1,400.

Soon we need the travel agent to secure us Emirates flight booking to UAE once the puppy reaches minimum permitted entree age. The shipping costs vary, again, based on breed, size of the puppy (volume of the shipment + kg if too big volume) and other substantial factors. Very few brachycephalic breeds cannot be accepted onboard of Emirates airline, so another major international EU based airline must be contacted. After carefully observing and following all the IATA rules and regulation a lot is still left at airline’s final discretion. Staying on the budget side, let's accept the air transport costs along with IATA agent charges to be Euro 800. We now have total costs at Euro 2,200. Additional cost of vet checkup, vaccinations, documents, vet certificates, road transfers (including high EU tolls) would very optimistically amount to Euro 100 to sum up total amount spent in EU so far being Euro 2,300. At current AE Dirham - Euro rate even in the most optimistic future this is already above AED 10,000 (AED 10,412 to be exact at the time of writing this). The optimistically economical costs of a puppy from breeder shipped to Dubai by Emirates or another leading EU airline sums up to over AED 10,000 only at country of origin (Italy in our case).

Now let's take step back to booking the flight. In order for airline to reserve and confirm desired and permitted date of entree into UAE, we must obtain UAE import permit from MOCCAE for our selected and purchased puppy. The airline will not guarantee or confirm the booking until this mandatory UAE entree document for a pet is obtained. Once the essential export/import documentation is completed, we can apply for UAE import permit, which costs AED 500 at the time of writing (with some small charges if paying by credit card). We now have the flight booked and we have spent AED 10,912 for our puppy thus far.

Moving on, the puppy has been well taken care of and is now happy on Emirates plane en route to Dubai. At this stage we are required to complete the release process online UAE MOCCAE page in order to be able to collect our puppy from Dubai airport quarantine facility. The process is similar to the import permit issuance and costs AED 1,000 at the time of writing (with small additional charge if paid by credit card). After paying additional customs fees and other charges, we now finally have our puppy out of airport in Dubai (if all the documents are in tiptop order!) at over AED 12,000!!

The principal most reason I am disclosing costs and figures of this whole process is to make you, the reader, our potential customer, to understand that the only part where it is truly possibly to slash the costs, is the cost of the puppy itself!! Yes, our IATA shipping agent fees may be fractionally reduced for us being a business (calculate in the business license and other business expenses we pay regularly), yes, you can opt for cheaper EU airline with marginal price reduction or we may get a better rate for the travel box if we order them in bulk, but the costs of import permit and release permit in UAE, documents and vet charges, airline prices remain the same for everyone! So where can the cost be mainly and greatly reduced? Essentially the cost of the puppy/kitten. You can obtain Euro 200 puppy from puppy miller (obviously being in this line of business for over a decade I know the prices), which already cuts the cost by Euro 1,100. If you run the puppy farm yourself, breeding animals in cold dirty cages without medical care on budget food formula continuously mating the females, the costs of your puppy are reduced even further below Euro 200! Shipping the puppy in small travel box by disreputable airline that do not follow IATA rules or with many stopovers can also lower the price…

So when you opt for the cheaper puppy/kitten, you are saving on the pet quality, health, wellbeing, background, ethics and not on business margins or expenses involved. If you opt to select and import your pet yourself – you will understand our predicament and prices. I encourage you to investigate the costs independently and calculate the real expenses yourself to conclude if it is really worth to save on the puppy/kitten price, source, health and welfare of the animal.

How do you justify your pet grooming rates?

Our grooming rates reflect three main factors:

>> Shortage of skilled staff in this field in this region. Pet grooming in UAE is not as evolved as in the US, Europe or even Asia. Consequently, there is severe shortage of skilled professional pet groomers, pet groomers by choice, trade and experience, who did the same line of work back in their home country and who will continue doing so upon return back home or any other country. Such rare employees must be sourced from abroad and have to be well paid, earning above average wages compared to other professions.

>> Highest quality specialised professional equipment designed specifically for pet grooming industry. We are the only ones within our region using the most expensive ceramic blades, couriered in from USA every three months to avoid any possibility of razor burns to your pets! Our thinning shears and scissors are also very frequently replaced and are usually also sent in by courier from abroad. It is not by accident Pets Habitat maintains the highest safety and injury free grooming records in this industry in UAE. In fact to the point that we have been occasionally ridiculed by our competitors for high costs of running our grooming department!

>> Average time spent hair clipping and proper designing of the pet hair according to breed standard. Pets usually do not stay still, thus many breaks must be taken for the pet to calm down and allow the groomer to do his job without scaring, aggravating or traumatising your pet. No harsh struggle or restraining is encouraged or permitted since it may hurt or frighten the animal. Last but not least, blow drying the pet consumes minimum 30 minutes or longer. Usual time for full grooming procedure is 90 minutes (or longer with some animals, particularly cats). The average time spent on each pet would mean very few appointments in the 9 hour day of the groomer. Monthly overtime/commissions are essentially involved for each and every grooming staff member. In order for the salon to cover its rents, equipment and staff costs, we must take a minimum of 4-5 appointments a day. As example: average hairdresser for a female customer would spend 15-30 minutes for haircut/restyle and blow dry, chargeable minimum AED 200. Let's just conclude that neither one of us, ladies, ever attempt to bite, scratch our hairdresser, run away or pee in the middle of the salon and all over the equipment, not to mention the number of appointments accommodated in a working day of an average hairdresser!

We believe our grooming rates are reasonable when all costs involved in running our operations are calculated in return of the quality of work and skill of our groomers.

Why we do not have Bulldogs and Pugs available during summer months?

We are commonly requested one of brachycephalic breeds during UAE hotter months, often in late spring or summer. In simple terms, brachycephalic breeds are snub-nosed breeds, all Bulldogs, Pug, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and many others alike (you can obtain complete list with google search).

What many of you may not know is that following IATA section governing international live animal air transport safety regulations (LAR), most international airlines will not accept any brachycephalic breeds onboard during hotter months, subject to departure, destination or transit airports declared air ground temperatures. Each airline usually has its own further variations to these rules, but most will only accept to carry snub-nosed breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs during winter months.

IATA, abbreviation for The International Air Transport Association, is the trade association for the world's airlines, representing some 280 airlines, primarily major carriers, or 83% of total air traffic. All international airlines strictly abide and follow IATA guidelines and code of ethics. While we ship most of our animals with Emirates, IATA member airline, we respect and appreciate the motives behind IATA Live Animal Regulations (LAR). Most brachycephalic breeds do not fare well during hot and humid temperatures, especially onboard an aircraft where air supply is additionally controlled and regulated, such breeds may develop troubles breathing and respiratory discomfort leading to fatality in extreme cases. In the past years worldwide, many snub-nosed breeds died during flights of various international airlines or in the airports holding facilities due to respiratory distress, often aggravated by hotter or humid temperatures. The IATA rules and regulations have been implemented to prevent the needless loss of pet animal lives. Among long list of numerous guidelines specifying all possible aspects of animal air travel, including the travel box requirements and parameters for all shapes and sizes of animals being transported, the travel box requirement for brachycephalic breed must be at least one size larger compared to same size non-brachycephalic breed. IATA and the airline prioritise safety and wellbeing for all its passengers, humans or animals, and will avoid any chance of hazard or risk associated with welfare of all its passengers onboard. Therefore, for the security and comfort of our animals while obeying IATA and airline’s policies, we do not import any brachycephalic breeds roughly from April until November.

Additionally, Emirates airline does not accept neither English nor French Bulldogs onboard its aircrafts as a further precaution to avoid any chance of respiratory distress associated with these more extreme brachycephalic breeds. Thus, when it comes to bulldogs, we must seek alternative EU based airline who will accept to fly our bulldogs during our cooler UAE winter months (we have successfully worked with Lufthansa in the past for our bulldog puppies). To answer the immediately raised question as to why we bring brachycephalic breeds into UAE in the first place:

1) we have very very few brachycephalic breeds yearly and only based on your demand;

2) UAE lifestyle typically revolves around indoor living in airconditioned environments, so we only import small breeds who fare well indoors and do not require much of outdoor exercise.

So if you are looking to have one of snub-nosed breeds like bulldogs or Pug or even Shih Tzu, please plan in advance for winter season and calculate in additional expenses of larger travel box and airline restrictions. We again encourage all our customers to stay better informed about your chosen breed, real life costs and welfare of all animals.

Why Pets Habitat puppies do not have docked tails like in other pet stores?

Simply put, we do not believe in docking or cropping for any reason aside of medical necessity and are against any senseless pain inflicted on our animals. We strictly follow "no crop, no dock" policy practiced throughout most of EU, including Italy where we import nearly all of our puppies from at the moment. Nearly all European and many other countries throughout the world currently ban ear cropping and tail docking. In Italy the only rare exception to this ban permitting occasional tail docking performed by a qualified vet is applicable only to actively hunting breeds used during hunting season and only with mandatory hunting license. Personally, I do not support hunting regardless of seasons or licenses, thus will make a point to avoid any docked puppy litters is we ever may come across them.

Aside of needless pain imposed on the puppy, we now know that tail is essential tool of canine communication, and docking it deprives the dog of its elementary initial communication ability to express signals of intimidation, hostility, playfulness, alertness to other canines and other animals, including humans. It has been studied and may be perceived that docked puppy is slightly more likely to grow into more aggressive dog compared to undocked puppy of same breed due to the cautious way other canines approach docked puppy, caution used due to tail handicap and disability of clear “tail communication”. I firmly believe that we now live in age and time where any form of animal mutilations is no longer required for any reasons and are completely absurd, hence should not be practiced and should never be supported. And so, all Pets Habitat puppies will remain cruelty free with their full natural tails and beautiful ears.

What if I am relocating to UK, Europe, USA or any other country, can I take my pet with me? What is the process?

Actually, most people think it is extremely difficult. In our opinion based on experience, it is not as hard as it may appear if you can plan the move at least 6 months in advance. We encourage all our customers to take their pets to their country of destination if planning to relocate.

Most countries allow pets to be imported, but there is certain medical documentation required for every country as per the regulations. Main prerequisite by most countries is the confirmation that your pet is virus free and immune to rabies. Thanks to the latest medical innovations there are specific blood tests that can reveal and confirm if your pet is immune to a certain virus such as rabies. With help of these blood test and conclusive report, most countries now allow the pet in without or with minimal quarantine period. Best advice we can give is to contact relocation company 6 months prior to your expected date of departure to your destination country. We can also offer you some guidance on relocation possibilities for your pet, but we no longer actively provide import or export services to our customers.

I live in an apartment. What breed of dog or perhaps any other pet would you suggest?

Choice of a pet will depend on many factors, including size of apartment, your working hours, if you have a housemaid or other help in your absence, if you are single or have kids, other family members living with you, if you travel often or if you enjoy regular time out on weekends. In general, we do not encourage dogs for those expats who work long hours, for single expats living alone. We suggest a cat or two to keep each other company for most of you who live in apartments alone. Cats are independent, need less attention, training and care compared to dogs, and are relatively easier to manage than dogs. There is always a choice to adopt unwanted or rescued kitty or to buy if you insist on a particular breed. Small pets like a hamster or reptile are also suitable, but please invest into proper enclosure and setup in benefit of the animal you plan to accommodate there, do the research online on care specific to your pet before purchase. I also caution people against locking parrots in a cage 24/7, especially if left alone throughout the day, so please be considerate, humane and think longer term when it comes to pets.

Whether in apartment or villa, rule of thumb for a dog is not to be left completely alone at home for longer than 4-6 hours at a stretch. Frequently left unattended for lengthy hours, such dogs will most likely develop behavioral problems out of boredom and in order to gain your attention. Larger breeds locked by themselves in apartment may also disturb your neighbors with loud barking, howling and movement. So please choose carefully.

However, in case you are in an apartment living alone, yet confident you can manage consistently your lunch breaks at home, or you can arrange for someone to visit, feed, play with and clean after the puppy during your working hours, at least 1-2 hours during your absence, you may opt for a small, generally quiet breed of dogs. Please feel free to email us with questions if you have concerns or for suggested breeds for your lifestyle - we will be happy to help.

I want a large breed of dog like a Husky, Pit Bull, German Shepherd, St Bernard or Great Dane. Can you import one for me?

We aim not to import larger breeds (with exception of very very occasional Labrador or Golden Retriever) due to our belief that most expats have neither enough time nor space required for the proper care of such breeds, not to mention cultural restrictions mixed in with lack of canine friendly public areas. Moreover, some breeds are just not suitable for UAE climate (Husky, St Bernard come to mind instantly) and many are prohibited by Dubai Municipality mostly for the reason of owner's inability to train well and manage these breeds. Please be considerate and sensible when planning a new pet. Factor in the realistic possibility of relocation with your pet and calculate the costs of a large breed vs smaller one.

What about dog training? Can you recommend a trainer?

We know our good friend Vic for over a decade & would recommend him for any type of most basic to advanced obedience training. Dog training is his bread & butter, so please do give him a call on 050-6355017 to discuss your pet's training needs. He will happily visit you at your residence to offer the training package or just a session for long term benefit for you & your pet.

Can I speak directly to the owner?

You can speak directly to the owner, I am very much reachable on natalia@petshabitat.com or 050-7871357. However, please use your discretion when you dial my number to ask me for directions or before calling me late night to ask our opening hours or availability of a collar (or anything else for that matter). Such calls can be easily managed by my staff on 04-3418085 between 10am to 9pm daily. If you do have a subject to discuss that you feel should be addressed to me directly - please feel free to call, message or email.