x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Owners warned to 'chip and tag' cats before round-up

Feline Friends urges pet owners to have cats registered and microchipped because of disputed Dubai plan to kill stray cats.

DUBAI // People are being urged to "chip and tag" their cats so the city's trappers do not scoop up their pets. Both Feline Friends and specialists at Dubai Municipality's veterinary section are advising cat owners to ensure their animals are microchipped and wear an identification tag, which can be issued either by the municipality or registered veterinary clinics.

The cat charity yesterday suspended its own trap, neuter and release programme after reports from cat owners in the Jumeirah area that the municipality was stepping up its own trapping effort. In the wake of a recent report stating Dubai's intention to reduce the emirate's estimated 150,000 stray cat population to just a few hundred, the move sparked concerns that domestic cats could accidentally be put down before being claimed by their owners.

An e-mail issued by the charity yesterday read: "For now, Feline Friends Dubai has suspended Trap, Neuter, Release. There is no point in us investing our time and precious funds in neutering a cat only to have it trapped and destroyed days later." But yesterday Dr Hisham Fahmi, a specialist at the city's veterinary section, said the municipality had no intention of indiscriminately culling the cat population and residents with cats that were chipped and tagged had no reason to be alarmed.

He admitted the Jumeirah area was being targeted following complaints from residents, but said that since its inception eight years ago, the programme's only aim was to trap, neuter and release cats to control the population. Under the municipality's two cat trapping programmes, which have been running in association with Feline Friends and the World Society for the Protection of Animals since 2001, any cat not wearing a municipality identification tag and microchip will be taken.

Trappers, Dr Fahmi said, targeted places where cats are known to breed and where there was an abundance of food - such as Dubai's fish and meat markets - as well as areas where residents had complained. "There is no destruction, only spaying or neutering," Dr Fahmi said. "Only those cats which are sick and suffering, or older cats, are humanely euthanised. "Pet owners should have their cat vaccinated and registered. This can be done by municipality or private clinics. We have also introduced the chipping of the cat. Preferably they are also neutered or spayed, though this is optional."

The cat, he said, should at all times wear a collar clearly displaying an identification tag issued by the municipality to avoid being collected. Spare tags for those who have lost them are available, he said, at the city's veterinary section, near Mushrif Park. He also urged the public to dispose of unwanted food carefully in tied rubbish bags placed in dustbins with lids and not to feed wild cats.