Abu Dhabi: Dogs on leashes outside in the searing heat, cats without litter boxes in their cages, birds and rabbits crammed into tiny cages and endangered animals in secret dens in poor hygienic circumstances.

These were some of the complaints Gulf News has received about the poor conditions animals were being kept in at pet shops around Abu Dhabi.

Some complaints from readers were about two or three puppies and kittens held in bird-size cages; dogs needing to step over their own urine because their cages were not cleaned and the importation of endangered animals.

Gulf News investigated the situation over a period of several months. Law Number 17 (2007) protecting animals in pet shops across the UAE has been signed by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

By the end of June pet shops breaking the law will be charged and taken to court.

"We are systematically trying to control the pet shop situation. If you visited pet shops a few months ago, you would have stumbled on badly treated animals in small cages, or animals being kept outside in the heat.

"An old lady tripped over some of these outside cages when she tried to enter a pet shop. She broke her leg.

"We had to take immediate action. It is no longer allowed to keep animals in cages outside shops," said Khaleefa Al Romaithi, head of the slaughterhouse division of the Public Health Administration of the Municipality of Abu Dhabi.

Al Romaithi is an animal lover and owns a number of horses, dogs and birds of all sorts on a farm. He and his team have for the past six months been undertaking random inspections around the capital city.

"When we first took over responsibility for handling the pet shop situation, we used to receive an endless amount of complaints from residents about the situations in pet shops. Today we generally receive only one complaint per day," he told Gulf News.

Dr Najdat Nour, chief veterinarian at the slaughterhouse division of the municipality, showed a copy of Law Number 17 (2007).

"At first the size of cages in pet shops did not matter. Now we are very clear on the size and number of animals and cages in a shop," said Nour.

When this reporter and a photographer involved in the investigation visited one of the pet shops in Mina Port two months ago, the situation was messy.

The municipality took note of the bad conditions and after a warning the pet shop was closed down.

"If the owner does not solve the situation as soon as possible, we will not renew the shop's licence and will take full responsibility for the animals by placing them in a more secure and more hygienic environment with enough space to roam around," said Al Romaithi.

According to him pet shops are inspected on a regular basis every 10 days to ensure they are in compliance with the law.

According to the new law, pets must have their own documentation when they are imported into the UAE and each dog must have its own "passport". Failure to provide proper documentation or proof of the animal's history will result in a warning and a random inspection a few days later.

The Abu Dhabi municipality is currently emphasising compliance with regulations. Thereafter pet shop owners will be trained on how to keep their shops clean and hygienic, and ensure there is enough space for animals.

"We will soon solve the situation at pet shops. The next challenge is to create public awareness on how to treat pets once they buy them.

"Many customers buy animals and mistreat them. We are working on various campaigns to help people understand how to keep pets," said Al Romaithi.

Animals: Better regulation

Law no 17 (2007) stipulates specific sizes (in centimetres) for cages in which dogs can be kept at pet shops. These regulations will be enforced all over the UAE from June 2008.

  • Norfolk Terrier 61 x 51 x 58
  • Border Terrier 76 x 54 x 61
  • Labrador 87 x 58 x 67
  • Rottweiler 107 x 68 x 75
  • Great Dane 125 x 74 x 82


The Public Health Administration of Abu Dhabi has issued awareness brochures that they will be distributing at all pet shops in the city, with some questions people should ask before buying a pet:

  • Do you have a garden?
  • Do you live in a villa or a flat?
  • Are you buying the pet for yourself or for your children?
  • Do you have another pet at home?
  • What type of animal do you want to buy?
  • Have you consulted a veterinarian about your decision to buy a pet?
  • Are you prepared to treat the pet as part of your family?
  • Do you have enough experience in handling an animal?
  • Do you have enough space for the pet?

Advice when buying

  • You should not buy a pet that is younger than eight to ten weeks old.
  • You should ensure the pet is vaccinated and has proper documentation.
  • Has the animal been placed in a healthy looking cage?
  • Check the animal's hair and skin before buying it.
  • Check if the animal has any signs of diarrhoea or urine on its body.
  • Are there any secretions from the animal's nose, eyes or mouth?


For any complaints with regards to poor conditions or cruelty at pet shops, people may call this toll-free number: 02 673 0200

Have your say
Do you know of anyone who owns an endangered animal? How did they come to own it? Have you ever been to a pet shop? How did you find the conditions? Tell us at letter2editor@gulfnews.com or fill in the form below to send your comments.

Your comments

Yes I know some people who keeps endangered pets. They get the pets from pet shops. Yes, I go frequently to two pet shops close to home. One of these pet shops has extremely bad conditions for the animals. Kittens and puppies stay in very small cages daily from 10am to 10pm.
Posted: May 05, 2008, 11:29

Two weeks back, I visited some of the pet shops in Mina, Abu Dhabi. The pets there were kept in a very deplorable state, as mentioned in the article. Also I saw a number of snakes in the different shops. In one of the shops were two fully grown peacocks kept in such a small cage that their feathers were coming out of the cage and they couldn't even stand up.
Posted: May 05, 2008, 10:55

I think articles like this should point out the pet shops that actually do care for the animals. Quality Pet Store on Khalifa Street is one of these places and I have regularly received great service and advice from their knowledgeable staff.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2008, 10:14

I am so proud of all the work you are doing to help our little mute friends, who love us unconditionally and so often get treated so badly. The conditions of the pet shops in Abu Dhabi is horrific in the Mina area. I made so many complaints to various authorities but they fell on deaf ears, so I am so pleased now to hear that all the complaints from people have been heard and the situation is improving.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: May 05, 2008, 08:14