Abu Dhabi: Owners of now-banned exotic and dangerous pets in the UAE have just six months to hand them over to authorities or face tough penalties, it was announced on Sunday.

A new federal law which came into effect this year also gives all dog owners six months to obtain a licence and vaccination certificate for their pets from local authorities.

Called the Law on Regulation of Ownership of Dangerous Animals, the new rule also states that dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when in public. Those who fail to do so will face a fine of at least Dh10,000, but not more than Dh100,000.

Certain dog breeds, including pit bulls, Dobermans, and Mastiffs, have been banned.

Only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breeding and research centres are entitled to keep dangerous, wild or exotic animals. All permits issued to other entities to import such animals will be revoked.

Under the law, all kinds of imported animals have to be registered and must carry official certificates issued by authorities within 30 working days from the effective date of the law.

The law also provides for stiff fines on people who use their animals to attack people. Fines for using an animal to terrorise people carries a jail term, or a fine ranging from Dh100,000 to Dh400,000.

In the event an intended animal attack causes a disability, a prison term of up to seven years will be imposed on the owner. If the attack leads to death, the owner will face life imprisonment.

No more cheetahs

According to the law, most wild animals cannot be reared as pets since they are vulnerable to unpredictable behaviours that can cause injury or death. The law also bans dealing in and ownership of all types of wild and domesticated but dangerous animals.

Anyone who takes a leopard, cheetah or any other kind of exotic animal out in public will face a jail term of up to six months and a fine ranging between Dh10,000 and Dh500,000.

The new law “aims to safeguard community members from the risks that may be caused by these animals, as well as to protect those animals from extinction,” said Thani Ahmad Al Zeyoudi, the Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

“However, animal welfare cannot be achieved by legislation alone, strict implementation is more important to deal with any illegal activities.”

As well as regulating animal welfare, the new law also helps control the international trade in endangered species, the minister added.