Residents of a luxury community in Dubai received a notice warning that fines will be issued to those found feeding stray cats in the neighbourhood.
Tenants and homeowners in Dubai's Emirates Living, which includes Emirates Hills, The Springs, The Meadows and The Lakes, were told that leaving out food for stray animals was not permitted.
In a notice to residents, Emaar, the developer, said those caught breaking the rules would be fined Dh500 – as per Dubai Municipality guidelines – and could be referred to the authorities for further action.
The community management team said the warning was issued in the “interest of health and safety of Emirates Living”.
In the same email, a circular from Dubai Municipality was attached that stated “feeding of birds such as crows and pigeons and stray animals such as cats and dogs” was prohibited throughout the emirate.
The public reminder was issued as it said these animals created a hotbed for pests and diseases.
“In addition to having a negative effect on the community’s aesthetics and causing bad odour, the said practice is also associated with a number of other concerns,” Emaar said in its notice dated September 8.
“Stray cats from adjacent areas are attracted to the food, which can result in noisy territorial disputes and fights.
“The leftover food attracts pests such as rodents and crawling/flying insects, counteracting the various pest control efforts carried out.”
Residents were told reports were received of stray animals showing aggressive behaviour towards children.
In a statement to The National, property developer Nakheel said it would also be issuing similar notices to its more than 300,000 residents across the city following the municipality advisory.
And residents in Canal Residence West, a community in Dubai Sports City, said they received the same circular from their property management company.
Kim Narrandes, a South African resident in The Springs, said she was disheartened when she received the notice.
"I live in The Springs and just like many other residents we have put our own money and effort in the well-being of the animals in our community, where a simple neutering can cost anything from Dh250," the marketing manager, 35, said.
"All the community's efforts are being flushed.
"Even though the municipality has a trap, neuter release programme, a feeding programme has never been part of the conversation."
She said she was also concerned that people's pets may end up accidentally being taken away.
Syrian resident Dima Aboudan, 45, said she often fed cats near her flat in Dubai.
“I live in Jumeirah Village Triangle and I saw the news warning people not to feed stray cats in another neighbourhood nearby,” she said.
“I often feed cats in my area and there are several women who do the same, we take it in turns.
“We leave out dry food and clean water and make sure it is always in the same areas.
“I think feeding the cats this way is much better than finding them searching through the garbage and making a mess.
"What is great about this country is the amount of people that are willing to take care of stray animals."
In 2018, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment made pet abandonment a punishable offence.
Under the legal amendments, which target animals cruelty, the ministry said those found dumping pets would face legal consequences, including fines or a jail sentence.
For years, the country has faced a problem with stray animals.
Their numbers are escalating rapidly, with an estimated 100,000 cats living on the streets in Abu Dhabi alone and tens of thousands more in Dubai.
While municipalities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have set up trap, neuter and release programmes to control stray animal population growth, the issue persists.