Dubai: Following a controversy surrounding the death of a toy poodle caused by an American Staffordshire terrier at Dubai Pet Show, the debate rages about whether certain breeds of dog, including all types of pitbulls, should be banned as pets.
While authorities have stepped up efforts to educate the public on the import of vicious dog breeds, dog owners have mixed views.
Following the incident, booklets issued by the Government of Dubai and Dubai Municipality were found outside doors at veterinary clinics and homes across Dubai. The book, written in Arabic and English, serves as a reminder that "there are many breeds of dogs of an aggressive nature and dangerous to public safety".
Although in distribution since 2008, the booklet has gathered renewed interest since February 3 incident. Titled Vicious Dog Breeds, the book lists dog breeds banned from importation into Dubai; breeds banned from being kept in apartments and shared accommodation and the reasons behind the ban.
There have been over 150 cases of dog bites and attacks investigated by the veterinary services section in Dubai Municipality from 2007 to the end of 2010.
However, just as important is the safety of the animals.
According to information from Dubai Municipality, "most of these [banned] breeds are used for wrestling and fighting, which is considered a violation of animal welfare legislation and laws". The book states that it's important to provide proper space to these animals to express their natural behaviour, thereby forbidding certain breeds in flats. "Maintaining the safety of animals also involves protecting the animals from being used as a target for hitting by arrows, or enjoying dog wrestling, as our Prophet (PBUH) forbade us in so many traditions."
Residents, meanwhile, have mixed opinions. Linda Fernando, a Mirdif pet owner, says that although she has nothing against any breed of dog, she leans towards the belief that not all breeds make ideal pets. "I would like to know why people feel the need to have these specific breeds in their homes. They may be cute and cuddly for a little while, but just as suddenly they may also go the opposite way. In countries such as New Zealand and Australia, if you do somehow own one of these breeds, it is compulsory to have them sterilised and muzzled at all times when out in public. Anyone who gets caught with a dangerous dog left unmuzzled would be taken to court," she says.
Storme W, a Jumeirah resident, who shares her home with two American Staffordshire terriers, says, "My Staffies aren't dangerous. They wouldn't harm a fly, but if the law says they need to be muzzled in public, then muzzled they will be. However, if I'm just taking my two girls out for a walk, I won't muzzle them. We'll go to a quiet area, away from the public. When we went to the dog show earlier this month, both my dogs had on a soft muzzle which wouldn't hurt them. But as to why they are banned breeds, I'll never understand."
UK dog behaviourist and Abu Dhabi expat Jane Sigsworth said: "Back in the UK, we have a saying about dogs: Deeds, not breeds. What that means is that a dog should be judged on its own merit and individuality, not on its breed," she says. "Just because two dogs share a breed does not necessarily mean they share a behaviour."
Despite the banning of certain breeds, the number of annual dog bites has not decreased. "Banning breeds doesn't always work," says Sigsworth. "What we need is to educate people. Dog owners need to learn their pet's language. Most dogs would never bite out of the blue, they always give out warning signals which people fail to read. Attacks could be prevented if people were more educated about their dogs," said Sigsworth.