UAE law on wild animal possession ‘a milestone’, activists say

Animal rights activists are welcoming a federal law passed to protect wild animals and regulate their trade.

Mohammed Al Kumaiti, 37, bought a lion cub for Dh50,000 a few years ago from a farm in Dubai but regretted his decision once he saw lions in their natural habitat while on safari in South Africa. Courtesy Mohamed Abdulla Al Kumaiti
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DUBAI // A new federal law regulating the possession, trade and breeding of dangerous animals has been welcomed by animal welfare activists.

It is hoped that Federal Law No 22 of 2016, issued by President Sheikh Khalifa, will protect human beings and the animals, prevent transmission of disease and ensure the animals receive good care.

Penalties range from Dh10,000 to Dh700,000. Any individual who uses a dangerous animal for assault can face three to seven years in prison if the assault leads to permanent disability of the victim, and life in prison if it leads to death.

El Sayed Mohamed, regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Dubai, said the UAE had set an example for the GCC.

“We welcome and congratulate the UAE Government in taking this important initiative, which we wish to be a milestone for the rest of the countries, not just in the region, but also in the world.

“People keep wild animals as a status symbol. Also they are under the misconception that by having wild animals in their homes they are conserving them.”

In the UAE, the most popular exotic animals kept as pets include cheetahs, tiger and lion cubs, snakes, crocodiles and primates, Mr Mohamed said. He emphasised the need for education.

James Baker, vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group in the US, also supported the legislation.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s also important to remember that public education is key to improving animal welfare,” Mr Baker said.

The new law, as well as amendments to Federal Law No 18 on animal welfare, will be instrumental in making improvements, said Susan Aylott of Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi.

In the past few months, her group had encountered “some of the most heinous, violent cases of animal abuse possible”, she said.

“However, the culprits are rarely brought to justice,” she said. “Their crimes are going unpunished.

“The law is a great step forward but there needs to be general awareness to educate the public, greater enforcement and clear guidelines as to how to report abuse cases with acceptable legal evidence,” Dr Aylott said.