Did you know that you need a license to buy liquor in UAE? What about getting a pet? Think thrice before bringing or adopting a pet in UAE.
One of the things that our family immediately noticed on our first month in UAE in 2008 was the seemingly ‘lack of popularity’ of pet dogs. While there are many street and house cats, it was quite unusual to see dogs with their ‘parents’ in public places or even inside the house. Apparently, the flat (apartment) or villa owners (landlords) prefer that their tenants take care of cats instead of dogs due to Islamic-related reasons. Back then, there were only few landlords who allowed cats. Some resorted to hiding pet ownership from their landlord, with some kind of protection from the Godfather (aka ‘natoor’ or building caretaker). The landlords usually do not live in the same building, lease management is done commercially through a third party. Since 2010, we badly wanted to adopt a dog because we missed having one. We always had a puppy/ dog when we were still in the Philippines.
In 2011, we were allowed to have cats in the flat. We got the first fur baby in April, then adopted another one later of the same year. After two years or so, we noticed a dog on leash coming from the same building and learned that at least two dogs (different tenants) live there. Oh. We were upset because we were not allowed to have one earlier. The drama did not last for 24 hours though because that is not fair to our two cats who have made and continuously make our life more sunshine-y in this part of the Gulf. In late 2015, we were blessed with a happy coincidence. You know what they say that you do not really look for a pet, but they are the ones who come to you, especially when you least expect them? The short story was that we adopted a dog. The coincidence, adoption and how our third fur-mily member got along with the two cats deserve another blog entry.
Of course, there are pros and cons to having additional living/ non-humans at home. I will try to strike a key point in this blog entry. We operate based on a budget which means that there are things we do sacrifice to be able to allot for our fur-mily members’ needs as well (e.g. one-time neutering/ spaying, microchipping and periodic vaccinations, etc.; our dog had all these prior to adoption). I will not elaborate on the many benefits resulting from this financial sacrifice. (I remember how in Suits where both Harvey Specter and Mike Ross, in separate occasions, mentioned that they would not bother to explain to those who might not be able to understand it, anyway. That may sound arrogant, however, believe me when I say that our cats and dog bring joy to our lives and aid us in improving our overall sense of being responsible – health wise, etc. Period. )
In late 2016, a (not so) surprise came in the form of UAE law, i.e. Federal Law No. 22 of 2016 regarding possession of wild animals (classified as mammals, reptiles, birds, invertebrates). In summary, it provides information about the exotic and dangerous animals which must be handed over to UAE authorities, requirement for all dog owners to obtain a license, and corresponding penalties. With regard to dogs, there are seven banned breeds: canario, rottweilers, pitbulls, tosa, boxer, doberman and mastiff. Our dog is a Norwich terrier.
The law was announced to the public in December 2016 which (still) gives an opportunity to those concerned to comply until middle of June 2017. Since early this year, I have been trying to get an update from the vet clinics in Abu Dhabi (e.g. American Vet, National Vet) about my main concern which is to obtain a license for my dog. They were providing me with the same information that there is still no specific details about the implementation of law. Last month, an article had been published over Dubizzle website that the due date to comply had been changed to July 2017 and provides information on obtaining license for dogs. However, this article seemed to point out to those who are residing in Dubai. (There are seven emirates in UAE, including Dubai.) When I asked the vet clinics in Abu Dhabi about the article, they seem to view that the implementation is still a gray area and do not consider it as an ‘official’ procedure to implement the law within Abu Dhabi.
What do I suggest to those who are required to handover the exotic and dangerous animals (including the banned breed of dogs)?
1. Document your intent to handover to UAE authorities/ agencies (e.g. through Ministry of Climate Change and Environment).
2. Do not wait for July 2017. In the absence of official announcement of extension to comply, you would be bound to comply with the initial timeframe, i.e. middle of June 2017.
What do I suggest if you own a dog and is based in Abu Dhabi?
1. Get the current update from your vet clinic(s) about obtaining a license for dogs.
2. If it remains a gray area nearing middle of June 2017, you may want to initiate to comply with the most likely minimum requirements: have your dog vaccinated for anti-rabies, etc. Based on my inquiry, the vet clinics in Abu Dhabi charge AED360/ USD98 (average) for the vaccines. Actual fee may vary depending on the age of your dog. Moreover, have your dog spayed/ neutered and microchipped.
3. Keep your dogs on leash when you are outside the house since it is one of the requirements of the law. By the way, prior to the announcement of the law, I have never seen a single dog without a leash when they are in public places. Truth is they are not allowed in most of the public places, even in some parks. (Do not imagine that it is like in the US and other countries where they may sit with you in the airplane, stay in the hotel, and other unimaginable things in this region yet.)
4. If possible, try to document your intent to obtain license/ clarification on obtaining license (e.g. by sending an email to vet clinics).
5. Try to not bring your dog to public places until you reasonably comply with the law. Summer is a blessing in disguise. (Since last month, I have temporarily stopped my periodic jog/ walkathon with my dog because of the weather. Even with booties, it is quite unbearable for the dogs. You can literally fry an egg on car’s dashboard.) If there is a need to take your dog outside the house, have a photocopy of the vaccination records, microchipping, etc. Holding something is better than nothing.
I do not want to sound arrogant, however, I opine that there should not really be a panic regarding the requirement to obtain a license for the dogs. The expected requirements on microchipping, vaccination, spaying/ neutering are actually being done/ should have been done prior to the existence of the law. The only new information here would be the license itself and oh well, the hefty range of penalties. On the other hand, I empathize with the other point of view that this may be misjudged as a money making mechanism and it will definitely boost the revenue of the vet clinics. Overall, it depends on one’s mentality as a pet owner. If you bought or adopted a dog and thought that your cost of investment would be limited to providing shelter and food, that is being irresponsible and naive. Having a pet is like having another ‘human’ family member. Particularly when you co-habit with one, all the more that you will ensure that there is proof of identification and accountability attached to you as a parent/ owner and that this fur-mily member is in good shape. For expatriates like me, I am sure that before you made the decision to adopt one, you carefully thought of your plans A, B and C in case it is time to return to our respective home countries or move somewhere else.
The Federal Law No. 22 of 2016 was introduced to better protect the human beings and animals, prevent transmission of disease and ensure animals receive proper care. I dread the scenario of having street dogs and other forms of abandoning of pets. I remember that in 2008 there were cars (particularly luxurious ones) dumped at the airport by those who tried to escape from their financial obligations and returned to their country. Challenging times ahead for the humans and non-humans.