NEWS AND OPINION: There is a story circulating in the news media recently about 140 cats being dumped in a desert lot in the capital Abu Dhabi which is part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An interesting and worrying aspect of the story is that the cats were abandoned across the highway from the government-run Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter in al Falah. The shelter was asked to comment by CNN but they refused to respond. I’ll comment: it’s very peculiar that a 140 cats were abandoned apparently within eyesight of a government run animal shelter. That point needs clarifying
Some of the cats were micro-chipped and therefore they were certainly owned. Fifty of the cats were dead and they saved 95 (making 145 cats in total on these numbers). There have been high temperatures in Abu Dhabi at around 40.5°C. Some of the cats were in carriers. A golden retriever was among the cats and they were saved. A husky was found dead.
It is a shocking story partly because of the large number abandoned. The story tells us that there were some purebred cats there like Persians. This clearly indicates ownership. It’s a very strange story because you can’t have a large number of people abandoning their cats at the same time in the same place. Well, you can theoretically but it is highly unlikely. And it would be possible that the animal shelter across the road (although I don’t know how far away it is from the abandon cats) would have noticed if the cats were being abandoned there. Were they abandoned all at one time or over a period of time? We don’t know as the reporting is thin.
PETA (Asia) is offering a $5000 reward for information about who dumped the cats.
Animal welfare laws
For me, being a former solicitor in the UK, one of my initial thoughts was: are there any animal welfare laws in Abu Dhabi? As mentioned above Abu Dhabi as part of the UAE which has animal welfare laws I am pleased to state.
The general animal welfare law is found under Federal Law Number 16 of 2007 as amended by Federal Law Number 18 of 2016. Specifically, Chapter 3 Welfare, Care and Husbandry Duties of Animal Owners, Article 4, covers the obligations of owners in respect of their duties to care for their companion animals.
Here are the relevant sections from that part of the law:
a. Owners of animals shall take all necessary precautions to ensure care of their animals and prevent cruelty thereon.
b. By not contradicting the provisions of other laws, the owner of animal shall be considered cruel if he did any of the following acts:
- To ignore giving sufficient food, water and shelter for the animal.
- To beat the animal causing him pain or harm.
- To practice any violent abuse including sexual abuse.
- The subject animals used for riding or loading or drafting to excessive stress irrespective of their power, age or health condition.
- To isolate, detain, or transport the animal:
a. Without giving sufficient food, water, and good ventilation or if the animal is unable healthwise. [I will omit this section as it’s about transporting animals]
- Killing the animal in a merciless way or using slow death means or causing them unreasonable or unjustified severe pain.
- Presenting or selling or trading in any injured, sick or physically unfit animals.
- Abandoning an animal by its owner or leaving it without water for a long an unspecified period unless he had an acceptable reason or permitted by the competent authority or department.
Clearly, section 8 above will apply in this instance as do other sections such as causing pain and/or not providing sufficient food or water. I could not find laws appertaining to cruelty against stray and feral cats. I expect that there would be such laws but it is not certain.
As a result, we can say with some certainty that the person or persons who abandon these cat in the desert committed a crime under this section of the UAE law. As I understand it, the penalties for breach of this law would be a fine not exceeding 20,000 Dirham (Article 22 Penalties). This equates to US$5,446 as at the date of this post. Comment: in the UAE this would be a very small fine. And clearly, in this instance a fine would be inadequate as a punishment because of the great harm, discomfort, distress caused to these animals.
It’s possible that a number of these cats were stray cats. The reporting is unclear. It’s worth noting that Abu Dhabi runs a TNR program for feral cats which was started in 2008. It was commenced by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. And the Abu Dhabi Animal Shelter conducts TNR. This shelter is managed by Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
Comment: clearly, there is a strong animal welfare element in Abu Dhabi society because TNR is a humane method of dealing with stray cats. It takes time and effort and often many volunteers to make it work effectively. This is indicative of a humane approach to animals. This makes the abandonment of cats referred to even more shocking.
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