ANALYSIS: Dubai is in the UAE. There is a very beautiful and very large luxury development in Dubai which, as I understand it, has been built by Emmar and is managed by Emirates Living. It is luxury living for expats and other international purchasers. The development has everything that a resident needs. But the management have said that one thing they don’t need are the stray cats and feeding stray cats encourages them and other “pests”.
The developer has threatened fines of Dh500 (£105) for anyone caught feeding the cats as per Dubai Municipality guidelines. In addition they could be referred to the authorities for “further action”, which sounds a little bit sinister to me.
The community’s management team insist that the warning has been issued in the “interest of health and safety of Emirates Living”. They say that the cats cause a “bad odour”. And they also spoil the aesthetics of this luxurious development. In short, they bring the place down as far as the management are concerned and they want to keep everything in this luxurious and well manicured place pristine-looking.
The arguments against feeding stray cats are well rehearsed in America and other countries. The management of this community say that when you feed stray cats you attract more of them from other areas. This can cause noisy fighting between cats which, I presume, disturbs the residents.
And when food is put down it attracts rodents they say and “crawling/flying insects, counteracting the various pest control efforts carried out”.
They also insist that residents should not feed birds such as crows and pigeons and also dogs. They create a “hotbed for the breeding of pests and diseases, which in turn threatens public safety”.
I’m told that the UAE is facing a growing problem with stray cats and dogs. It is nice to know that volunteers are running TNR programs to deal with stray cats.
It’s rather strange that in Great Britain you never have this sort of problem. It must be down to the weather. I’m sure people feed stray cats in Great Britain but nobody ever talks about it and nobody minds. In America, at the local authority level, there is a constant level of angst as to what to do with stray cats and they have been attempts in some municipalities to criminalise the feeding of feral and stray cats. Those attempts exactly mirror what is going on in the UAE as mentioned above. And it is a very anti-animal attitude. It is humans keeping animals away and off their perfect patch of land.
The problem, as I see it, is that it is very hard to stop some people feeding vulnerable animals such as stray cats who were clearly starving. Their compassion clicks in and they have to do something about it. It doesn’t matter whether they are rich and living in beautiful surroundings. In fact it might make matters worse because the sight of a starving stray cat stands out in stark contrast to beautifully kept and well manicured surroundings.
There will be neighbours who dislike people feeding cats and they will complain to the management company. But there will always be a minority of people who have to act humanely towards stray cats. They have to help them. And criminalising their behaviour won’t stop them partly because the fine is quite small. Although Emirates Living have threatened further sanctions if people continue to feed the cats.
I understand the problems and I can understand the motivations of Emirates Living. However, I think that they are going about it in the wrong way. In notifying residents that they will be punished they have already lowered the amenity of the residential community. They have created a kind of police state atmosphere which cannot enhance the place. This is because it is a negative action. It has negative connotations. It has connotations of animal cruelty and poor animal welfare.
This sits on top of an already poor reputation for Dubai which is part of the UAE – United Arab Emirates. According to human rights organisations, the government of UAE violates a number of fundamental human rights. They do not have democratically elected institutions. Citizens of UAE do not have the right to change the government or form political parties. It is a dictatorship of sorts. A couple of years ago there were protests that were brutally put down. There were talks about withdrawing F1 racing from the area but they continued because of commercial issues.
So here we have a city-state in the UAE with a bad reputation about human rights; and with poor human rights you get even poorer animal rights. It all adds up to a negative perspective to outsiders. The better solution would be to set up a comprehensive TNR program inside the Emirates Living community and involve those concerned residents who are feeding the cats.
As part of the programme feeding stray cat would be allowed but there will be directives to insist that the food is only place down for a certain period of time and then removed to minimise the negative impacts. And feeding feral and stray cat should be part of TNR programs only. This would create a much more positive atmosphere surrounding the presence of stray cats in this plush place.
It would also promote Emirates Living as an organisation concerned with animal welfare. This would be a big public relations coup for the company and it would enhance this attractive development in the eyes of international purchasers.
My thanks to thenational.ae for reporting the story.