x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Ali Column: Ownership of illegal animals in UAE not cool

You see a lot of crazy things in the UAE, but seeing a tiger in a car can still be shocking.

You see a lot of crazy things in the UAE, but seeing a tiger in a car can still be shocking.

That was a scene in front of my house recently - yes, a real tiger, a pet being taken out for a drive to be shown off by some boys who enjoyed the attention from others on the street.

Why? How exactly are they benefitting from this? How are they able to live with the fact that this tiger has been made to live against its natural instincts - possibly without its teeth and claws? How can someone raise such a dangerous, unpredictable animal in their backyard or, even worse, in a small box?

How is this affecting our global image and UN status and World Wildlife Fund positioning of the Emirates towards animal rights? Emiratis and the local community must understand that such an inhuman act toward these animals brings our country's profile down.

The UAE has been known for its eye-catching buildings, road infrastructures, biggest malls, tallest building, cleanest roads, beautiful desert and mountain and oasis sights. And I'm afraid that such a mindset has caught on with some people when it comes to owning a pet; they believe that owning such an animal is a reflection of their status in society.

The question is what can we do to change people's minds about these animals? Short answer: enforce the law.

I'm not against owning and taking care of an animal, because I know that some people might have the same passion I have for dogs but for tigers or other animals. But there is already a law against the importing, buying and selling of these large and dangerous animals, and it's there for a reason.

From an insider on such a hobby, a friend tells me that cheetahs have become a special birthday gift for some kids! And you know, baby cheetahs are very cute. And people can afford it so they pay and own it for that moment of a BlackBerry display picture. But they have no idea what it takes to care for such a wild animal, and The National has been filled with stories of the creatures that have been abused and abandoned.

The situation makes me really sad.No matter how much effort is made to raise awareness about not owning such animals, I believe the situation has gone way beyond that, which makes it so difficult to influence people. The only way to reduce such a practice is to simply implement the law which states that it is illegal to own these animals, and charge those who break the law. Did you know that the fine for such an offence could be Dh50,000 and you could be in jail for six months?

It's without a doubt that our Government has always been a role model when it comes to adopting the best regulations and laws to protect wildlife, and I already see positive changes in the wildlife trade system. So, hopefully, this will also continue to help reduce the illegal actions of owning such animals.