Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Dog fighting a top priority in Dubai, vet health inspectors say

Further laws are in the pipeline to restrict ownership of some dog breeds considered dangerous by authorities.
A pit bull found abandoned in Jumeirah after a dogfight. Courtesy Dubai Animal Welfare Society
A pit bull found abandoned in Jumeirah after a dogfight. Courtesy Dubai Animal Welfare Society

DUBAI // Every day is busy for veterinary health inspectors at Dubai Municipality, whether taking calls about advice on keeping lions to trawling social media for signs of dog fighting, it is all in a day’s work.

That workload is unlikely to lessen any time soon, with further laws in the pipeline to restrict ownership of some dog breeds considered dangerous by authorities.

So far this year, there have been about 150 reports of dog bites sent to Dubai Municipality. Of those, only 20 were considered serious enough to warrant further action.

Veterinary inspectors have said a further six breeds are likely to be added to the banned list, once additional laws have been passed at a federal level.

“The issue of dog fighting has reduced a lot in Dubai since the 1990s, when it was everywhere, but it is still a problem,” said Thani Nasser Alsuwaidi, assistant veterinary health inspector at the municipality’s public health services department.

“Now it is hidden, more underground than out in the open, making it difficult to close down these operations. When we do get tip-offs, it is usually too late and they’re gone.

“When we find dogs that have been used in fights, especially pitbulls, they have signs of scarring, bleeding, or bites.”

Dogs bred for fighting are particularly difficult to return to the community. Although it goes on, there have been no official reports made to Dubai Municipality since 2013.

“I found an Instagram account of an owner of a pitbull, and it was clear he was using the dog for fighting,” Mr Alsuwaidi said.

“With social media, it is difficult as none of these service providers are based here, so it is hard to demand information on account holders to investigate. All we can do is report our concerns to the correct channels, like Interpol.

“Sometimes we get lucky. There was a photo of a dog fight, with a guy’s car in the background that we were able to trace. Some people are stupid; we could get the plate number to find him.”

Reported dog bites are not always by breeds on the dangerous list.

Anyone who is bitten must call police first, then go to Rashid Hospital where there is stock for relevant vaccinations, such as for rabies. A call can then be made to the municipality and the dog will be collected.

The municipality holds the dog for 14 days, for behaviour and rabies tests, analysing if it is vicious or not. If the dog is deemed dangerous, it could then be put down.

Most calls to the division are about poorly trained dogs, or neglected rather than dangerous breeds.

The dogs that are banned include all types of pitbulls, wolf-dog hybrids, American Staffordshire terriers, Japanese tosa, Brazilian and Argentinian mastiffs and crossbreeds of any of the six kinds of dogs.

Currently, there is no prison sentence for dog fighting but proposals are afoot that could see a one-year jail term and Dh500,000 fine for anyone found guilty of using dogs for fighting.

Dr Susan Aylott, a volunteer with Animal Welfare Abu Dhabi, said an updated banned dogs list would have to be clear to protect pets already in the UAE.

“The concern is that new dogs that are on the banned list and already in the UAE could end up being dumped, and adding to the problem of strays that need to be rehomed,” she said.

“It needs to be clearly publicised that any new breeds that are added to the banned list are prohibited from being imported into the UAE, and that those dogs already in the country are registered and put on a database, so we know who the owners are, and what they are doing with them.

“If they are caring owners, they should not be penalised and the dogs should be allowed to live out their natural lives in the UAE.

“There needs to be clear planning for the future, so these dogs are not put onto a death list.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

Updated: September 29, 2016 04:00 AM

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