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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Vets urged to report animal abusers before they turn on humans

Cases should be reported so police or health care professionals can intervene to stop abusers going on to harm people, experts say

Afra Al Dhaheri, head of Cloud 9 Pet Hotel and Care, tends to a Saluki that had to have her legs amputated after being shot and run over by a group of teenagers. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Afra Al Dhaheri, head of Cloud 9 Pet Hotel and Care, tends to a Saluki that had to have her legs amputated after being shot and run over by a group of teenagers. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Veterinarians should watch out for cases of animal cruelty by children as it could be a precursor to abusing the elderly, officials at a conference heard on Sunday.

The National Conference on Animal Welfare heard that information on such cases must be reported to police and doctors so they can intervene and help people who abuse animals as an outlet for their anger.

“There are studies that show how people who mistreat animals may later abuse vulnerable people like the elderly or children,” said Rebecca Garcia Pinillos, founder of One Welfare, a European organisation for animal health.

“The correlation is strong and it is important that people who work with animals learn about the link so they can support public health systems and help the person who is expressing anger against an animal. It could save that person’s life.

“There is a psychological and mental health connection but we have to be careful not to demonise all persons who mistreat animals. It does not mean that everyone who mistreats an animal will mistreat a person.”

Ms Garcia Pinillos’s group connects animal welfare agencies with social services.

“These professionals are not naturally interconnected so we need to enable vets to understand what they should record,” she said. “The idea is to provide tools so medical professionals, whether doctors or dentists or vets, may help each other.”

A study in 1997 by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University in Boston revealed that animal abusers are five times more likely to harm people.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, said the UAE’s animal welfare law incorporated the best practices from around the world to prevent harm or pain to animals.

The law raised fines from Dh5,000 to Dh200,000 and added a prison term of up to one year for anyone caught abusing, illegally hunting or buying or selling animals.

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Read more:

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National Editorial: There should be zero tolerance towards animal cruelty

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It also regulated the slaughter of animals and was praised by international officials as the only comprehensive legislation in the region.

“Many countries in the Middle East region have no laws for the slaughter of animals,” said Hassan Aidaros, who works at the World Organisation for Animal Health in Paris.

“The Emirates is the first country in the region with a law that respects and protects animals slaughtered for human consumption. In many other countries this makes up a few paragraphs or one chapter on animal health, but in the Emirates it is a complete law.”

Mr Aidaros said veterinarians should take note of any abuse they encountered and report it to police.

“This public-private partnership between the police, public health officials and vets is important to implement,” he said.

The discussion sparked interest among vet students from across the country.

“If we teach our children to take responsibility in how they treat dogs and other animals, when they grow up they will treat their family and others with respect,” said Hazza Al Azizi, a veterinary student from Al Ain.

“We must teach all our children this and increase awareness in our community.

Salem Al Doobi, a committee member of the Islamic Affairs guidance committee and the head of Islamic Affairs in Sharjah, said the Quran taught Muslims to treat animals well.

“There are many stories in the Quran about how we should treat animals correctly, not mistreat them and to feed them well,” Mr Al Doobi said. “The Prophet also forbade overloading animals or treating them unkindly while riding horses or camels.

“This is what children should learn in line with the instructions of Islam.”

The two-day conference was organised by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.