Animal abusers in UAE should face full brunt of law, advocates urge

After several shocking incidents this year, the co-founder of Protection of Animal Rights Association in Dubai says more education and tougher enforcement of existing laws would help to ensure there is no repeat of cruelty cases in 2017.

Jenga was found abandoned in Fujairah with gunshot wounds and has now recovered. The UAE has strengthened animal protection regulations, but campaigners say those responsible for acts of animal cruelty must not be let off lightly. Reem Mohammed / The National
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AJMAN // People who abuse animals should be jailed and the public made more aware of why people should be kinder to pets and strays, animal welfare groups say.

After several high-profile incidents this year, Fatima Al Zaabi, co-founder of Protection of Animal Rights Association in Dubai, said more education and tougher enforcement of laws would help to ensure there is no repeat of cruelty cases next year.

“We need imprisonment,” said the Emirati. “They need to pay for what they have done because those who harm an animal can harm a human. The law really needs to be applied and create a community service programme for abusers to understand why they should not do that.”

Earlier this year, President Sheikh Khalifa issued Federal Law No 18 for 2016 to tackle cases of animal cruelty. Anyone in violation faces a one-year jail term and/or a fine not exceeding Dh200,000.

“Videos of people abusing, killing and throwing animals against walls come up because they know nothing will happen to them,” said Ms Al Zaabi. “Others seen them and say ‘Yes, we can do it and no one will do anything about it’.”

In September, in Ajman, an Emirati teenager was filmed throwing a cat against a wall. He was arrested after the video was posted online but later released without charge. His parents pledged that he would not repeat the incident.

Last month in Dubai, a five-month-old kitten was found with its ears and tail cut off. The cat was found in a pool of blood by a woman after she heard the animal crying in pain.

Dubai Municipality responded to 4,500 animal welfare complaints between January and July.

Protection of Animal Rights Association in Dubai was started by a group of 20 Emiratis to host educational programmes in schools and help rescue and rehome at-risk animals.

“I always believe in education, which is the first key role,” said Ms Al Zaabi. “People need to be educated whether if they are kids at schools or older people. Educating kids should be started at homes by their parents, who need to take them to petting zoos and show them how to feed and take care of pets.”

Manal Al Mansoori, a member of the association, said she recently saw a Snapchat video showing a girl laughing and bragging about killing a stray cat with a sharp stick.

The Emirati said authorities should use social media in a similar way to get the message across that this sort of cruelty was wrong and punishable.

Tania Barley, administration manager at RAK Animal Welfare Centre, said education was essential when it came to preventing animal cruelty, and parents have a key role to play.

“We do educational campaigns at schools and different educational institutions in RAK to explain to kids that animals want fair treatment just like us and that they should be treated gently without being hurt.”

She said parents have a role in teaching their children about the proper treatment of animals.

“The law is there, but at the moment there are no clear procedures of implementing it. The government should explain to people what to do when they see an abuse case, who to call and how to address the issue because people do not know.”