DUBAI // A campaign to stop stray animals from breeding in the emirate has begun to yield results.
In the past year, more than 5,000 cats and 200 dogs have been trapped, neutered and released back into the neighbourhoods where they were found.
"We have been campaigning for the cause for the past year and now we see the results," said Mohammed Al Hammadi, the head of veterinary services at the municipality's Public Health Department.
Making the emirate free of stray animals by preventing their ability to breed is at the top of his department's agenda.
The municipality estimates there are more than 25,000 stray cats and dogs in Dubai.
"A technical wing is deployed for emergencies and administrative staff of the animal control unit are constantly in touch with call centres of Dubai Municipality to handle public complaints," said Mr Al Hammadi.
Once inspectors trap the animals, they are taken to the department.
"If they have microchips, we use a reader to check the owner's details and call them. The owner has to pick up the animal within three days and has to pay a fine of Dh200," he said.
The resident would have to provide the department with identification documents to prove ownership, after which the animal would be vaccinated and returned.
In the absence of an owner, the municipality will wait seven days before neutering and releasing the animal. He said dogs were sometimes put up for adoption or sold, depending on their health and pedigree.
Officials have urged owners to "chip and tag" their pets to prevent animal catchers from taking them away.
Our inspectors always go to the scene after receiving complaints from the public, said Hashim Al Alwadhi, the manager of the Veterinary Section in Dubai Municipality.
"We respond immediately. We use food as bait and trap them," he said. Aggressive and sick cats are usually put down. Dogs are neutered and vaccinated.
Mr Al Alwadhi said among the trapped cats, 151 were classified as sick and aggressive.
Authorities said abandoned buildings were a "hotbed" for stray animals to breed, and they urged residents to report strays to the 24-hour call centre on 800 900.