13 May

Are UAE Residents Allowed to Keep Exotic Animals as House Pets?

Fujairah: A recent video which showed a wild cat roaming rather close to a residential area in Fujairah has sparked debate, concerns, and alarms, with an investigation following soon after by the Emirates’ environmental authority. Soon after, the authority announced that the wild cat had been captured and that it belonged to a person as a pet; this is one of the main reasons for the debate, as concerns have been raised related to the legality of keeping such wild and exotic animals as pets in the UAE. 

While the UAE urges residents to not keep exotic or rare animals as pets, imposing a fine of up to Dh500,000 for those who fail to comply, it seems like it has not disincentivized the practice, with a trend of exotic pet ownership visible. 

This is not the first time such an event has transpired either. In 2021, certain residents of Dubai were arrested for possession of 8 wild animals. The animals included a rare monkey and lion cubs, which were seized by the Dubai Police. In that same year, a wild Jaguar was spotted in the Springs 3 community, leaving residents panicking as the animal frolicked in what appeared to be a villa garden. Police later reported that the animal was a ‘pet’ and not a wild animal. 

Barney Almazar, director of Gulf Law in the UAE, Philippines, UK, and Portugal, says, "As a general rule, keeping dangerous animals as pets is not only discouraged but prohibited in the UAE." He emphasised that the country has stringent regulations in place to control the ownership and trade of wild animals, ensuring the safety of both the animals and the public.

Regarding the specific laws and regulations, he said that the "Federal Law 22 of 2016 (law on regulating the possession of dangerous animals) defines Dangerous Animals as animals that cause harm or damage to humans or other animals."

He further added, "It’s illegal and prohibited to own, possess, trade, or breed dangerous animals." However, he also highlighted the fact that exceptions are made for authorised facilities such as zoos, animal parks, circuses, breeding centres, and scientific research institutions that comply with specific requirements.

He mentioned examples such as "big cats (such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs), bears, primates, certain species of snakes, crocodiles, and other large or dangerous animals." On the other hand, he noted that smaller and less dangerous species are generally allowed, including "some breeds of dogs and cats, certain species of birds, non-venomous snakes and lizards, small mammals like hedgehogs and small rodents, and fish."

Highlighting the potential fines or penalties for individuals found with illegal wild animals, he outlined the severity of the consequences. “Whoever possesses a dangerous animal for trade shall be punished by imprisonment, or a fine of not less than Dh50,000 and not more than Dh500,000,” he said.

Other regulations will also apply, if the animal attacks another person while it is claimed as a pet by a resident. “Imprisonment for no less than three years and no more than seven years if the animal attacks another resident and has caused a permanent disability. The penalty shall be life imprisonment if the attack was fatal," he explained.






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