x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Animals owe lives to team of inspectors

A team of 10 inspectors is spot-checking more than 20 pet stores and dozens of farms located in Abu Dhabi Emirate.

Raif Arnaout, a 16-year veteran of the capital's slaughterhouse division, examines an inspection sheet at a pet store during a surprise visit.
Raif Arnaout, a 16-year veteran of the capital's slaughterhouse division, examines an inspection sheet at a pet store during a surprise visit.

ABU DHABI // Raif Arnaout lifted the lid of a rubbish bin. Inside lay a sickly dove, thrown away to die. He had all the evidence he needed. The city animal welfare inspector is one of 10 working in and around the capital to improve conditions on farms and in pet shops, conducting spot-checks and shutting down those where they find serious breaches of animal welfare laws. Shops and farms across the emirate that violate the regulations face being fined, immediately closed and having their animals confiscated.

The inspectors at work this month checking the more than 20 pet stores and dozens of farms in the emirate will shortly be joined by 10 more, soon to be hired to extend inspections to Al Ain and the Western Region. "Those who sell animals are being closely monitored on an almost daily basis," said Khaleefa Mohammed al Romaithi, who heads the Department of Municipal Affairs's slaughterhouses division.

"Those who are in violation of standards are given an opportunity to correct the violation by being given three warnings. After that the owners of the stores are fined up to Dh5,000 per violation. If the violations continue, the shop can be temporarily closed or even have its licence cancelled." Last month, in an article in The National, Jonathan Hale of the British Veterinary Centre drew attention to poor conditions at the Mena animal souk in Abu Dhabi. At the time, municipal animal welfare authorities promised to investigate.

Since then, they have been conducting regular inspections. Many shop owners have been required to improve conditions and, in some cases, ordered to stop selling certain types of animals. One store at the souk had been found selling chickens and ducks for human consumption, despite a ban introduced last year on the sale of live poultry within city limits. Inspectors ordered the closure of the store, which remains shut.

This week, inspectors closed another shop in the market indefinitely for disposing of sick animals in a rubbish bin while they were still alive and operating without a licence. On Tuesday, Mr Arnaout, the inspector who found the live dove in the rubbish bin, ordered the shop to close for 24 hours and fined its owner Dh500 for the offence. "I had warned the store on several occasions that dying animals are not to be thrown out into the bin alive. What would have happened had I not come across the dove, was that more rubbish would have been piled on top of and it would have suffocated," Mr Arnaout said. He gave the store a failing grade during his inspection, which means it can be shut down and the owner fined.

The shop worker claimed that when the dove was put into the rubbish, it appeared to be dead. Mr Arnaout told the man: "I had warned you about this several times. You have to make sure the animal is dead before you throw it away." The clerk slaughtered the bird and returned it to the rubbish in front of the inspector and a reporter from The National. Returning to the store on Wednesday to issue the fine and enforce the 24-hour closure, Mr Arnaout discovered that the shop worker running the store was actually a cook and not licensed to work in a pet store. As this is considered a serious violation, Mr Arnaout closed the store indefinitely.

"It will remain closed until its licence is reviewed and until its owner comes to the Municipality to explain why he violated municipal regulations," he said. @Email:ealghalib@thenational.ae