Many of these animals especially those that are not registered and not been vaccinated, transmit diseases to humans, experts say Image Credit: GN Archive

Dubai: The Department of Public Health Services at Dubai Municipality explained that the newly issued imposition of fines for feeding stray cats is based on the civic body's keenness to safeguard public health and safety and in no way meant to deny people the right to love animals.

"We are aware of what our religion teaches on how to be merciful towards animals in our life. But what we forget too often the threat these animals pose to the health and safety of the people," said Hashim Al Awadhi, Head of Veterinary Services Section at Dubai Municipality.

He said many of these animals especially those that are not registered and not been vaccinated, transmit diseases to humans especially those with weak immune system like the elderly and children.

"Animal transmitted diseases include rabies and toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease affect those who frequently deals with infected cats," Al Awadhi said. He said toxoplasmosis during pregnancy may lead to abortion and deformity in fetus.

A cat bite or scratch may cause painful burning and swelling in the body.

Al Awadhi stressed that out of this threat for public health and safety, Dubai Municipality has fielded mechanism to check and control the number of stray cats and other animals under a comprehensive programme. The programme calls for the herding of stray cats which will then be made sterile to prevent them from further reproducing. The neutered or spayed cats will then be released to the areas where they were collected.

This programme is approved by the World Society for the Protection Of Animals .

Asked to explain the imposition of fines, Al Awadhi said the proposed Dh200 fine is only to be imposed when a violator is caught for the second time. Those caught for the first time will be given warnings.

No one has so far been fined, he added.

More guidance

Earlier, animal lovers reacted to the municipality regulation, saying people need to be guided on this issue.

"I would not say that we should stop people feeding stray animals. People need to be guided," said Leslie Muncey, chairperson of Feline Friends.

"It is usually the fear of catching disease from a stray animal that people have."