Common front sought against animal cruelty

Animal welfare authorities and charities are joining forces to call for stricter enforcement of UAE anti-cruelty laws.

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DUBAI // Local authorities and non-profit groups are calling for a co-ordinated national attack on animal cruelty, after the shooting of two cats this month and other incidents.

Mickey, a cat from Al Barsha, was shot 12 times and suffered skull, lung, pelvis and leg injuries. The other cat, Safa, who lives near Safa Park, has been shot in the head twice in three months.

"Proactive steps against animal cruelty are taken by the authorities but such acts happen globally when individuals ignore the law," said Dr Max Spicer of The Veterinary Hospital in Al Quoz, who treated both cats.

Such crimes and other cases of cruelty prompted the municipality's veterinary department to last week organise its first UAE Animal Welfare Conference.

Participants including representatives from municipalities, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) and K9 Friends met officials from the Ministry of Environment and Water to call for a more cohesive strategy.

Dr Elsayyed Mohamed, the programme manager of Ifaw, said common violations included dog fights, irresponsible ownership, improper transport and keeping exotic and endangered animals as pets.

"We need a nationwide database clearly identifying the number of cases that go to court and penalties should be specific and categorised," Dr Mohamed said.

Jackie Ratcliffe, chairman of the dog rescue group K9 Friends, said: "There is still frustration and emotion around this topic. The laws are there but need to be properly implemented because, in the area of cruelty, there are still unanswered questions."

In 2007, the President passed a law outlining animal welfare policy, and in 2008 a ministerial decree outlined which crimes against animals were punishable.

The animal welfare division in the Ministry of Water and Environment is responsible for setting laws and regulations, and carries out its own inspections, while municipalities are responsible for enforcing the laws in their emirates, issuing fines and referring cases to prosecution.

In Dubai, the municipality's veterinary department investigates cases. Adil Al Badri, the head of theanimal welfare unit, said its inspectors had seen cases of overcrowding, animal depression, injuries, overworking and disease on farms, at ports and in markets, and issued fines accordingly.

In Abu Dhabi, the animal welfare department at Abu Dhabi's Food Control Authority investigates the treatment of animals at farms.

"If there is good management, animals will not fall ill and disease will not spread," said Mutasim Al Rosan, a food-safety inspector at the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Mr Al Rosan said a law regarding the transport of animals would soon be introduced and a national law on farms inspection was also being studied because "a unified code of practice is currently not in place".

Animal welfare is a matter of "fine tuning", said Dr Hamid Orban, a specialist from the animal welfare section at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, who also stressed transport was a crucial issue.

"One of the main unanswered questions is who is responsible for issuing licences for transporting animals and overseeing the movement within the Emirates?" Dr Orban said, agreeing with Dr Mohamed that there were too many "irregularities in penalties".

"It is irresponsible ownership that leads to animal suffering," he said.

Mrs Ratcliffe said the situation was far better than when the organisation was established in 1989.

Since 2000, she said, more than 3,000 dogs had been given new homes through K9 Friends. And about 143 dogs were being cared for in K9 Friend's new shelter in the Jebel Ali Industrial Area, paid for by the Dubai Government in 2007.

"Cruelty is often caused by ignorance," Mrs Ratcliffe said. "We have many educational campaigns to teach young kids so that these cases do not happen in the future."

Dh20,000 fine for offenders

According to a federal law decreed in 2007, anyone who is cruel to an animal in any of the following ways may be prosecuted:

- Using cruelty when preparing an animal for slaughter.

- Using an animal for experiments that cause bodily or mental pain.

- Using an animal to perform or fight for amusement.

- Subjecting an animal to negligence, cruelty or malnourishment.

- Giving an animal any restricted medicine or chemicals to promote its growth.

- Transporting an animal from one place to another in a cruel way, or killing it in a cruel way.

- Using an animal for work or racing beyond its capacity, and without giving it sufficient food, water or rest.

Anyone who breaks these laws is punishable by a fine of up to Dh20,000.

* Maey El Shoush