Dubai: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) is warning that anyone caught dog fighting could be fined Dh200,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.
Their statement follows the recent discovery of a heavily scarred Rottweiler pup left abandoned in the Umm Al Quwain desert, which a local charity says is ‘evidence that illegal dog fighting still exists in the UAE’.
Dr Kaltham Kayaf, Head of the Animal Health Section at the MOCCAE, said: “The fact that dog fights happen only in closed circles makes it difficult for the MOCCAE to detect their prevalence.
Cruelty to animals is unacceptable in our country and is punishable by law. Organising dog fights is an act of animal cruelty and a crime, and the perpetrators are held accountable.
“However, the Ministry collaborates closely with the concerned local authorities and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) to keep an eye out for any such activity.
“The UAE is strongly committed to animal welfare, in line with the nation’s belief systems and culture.
“Cruelty to animals is unacceptable in our country and is punishable by law. Organising dog fights is an act of animal cruelty and a crime, and the perpetrators are held accountable,” she said in a statement to Gulf News.
“According to Federal Law No. 16 of 2007 on animal welfare and its amendments in Federal Law No. 18 of 2016, acts of animal cruelty are punishable by either imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or a fine of Dh200,000, or both.
“If the offender is an entity, the ministry imposes one of a variety of penalties that range between a warning, temporary closure of the facility up to six months, permanent closure, and licence cancellation.
“The public can play a major role in saving animals from suffering or death,” she said. “Therefore, we urge members of the community to notify us should they witness any acts of animal abuse or cruelty.”
This statement follows the discovery of Milly, a heavily scarred Rottweiler pup that was found in the desert near Barracuda Beach Resort in Umm Al Quwain late last month with wounds that suggested she had been used as a bait dog.
Bait dogs are those that are chained or confined while other dogs are encouraged to set upon them to maim or kill them for the purpose of an illegal blood sport.
“We know it definitely still exists here and she’s the example,” said Amirah William, from the Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain.
Brought into the centre by the people that found her, William said: “We could soon tell she was used as a fighting dog because of the scarring.
“She was very aggressive and we couldn’t give her any pain relief for her deep wounds because she wouldn’t let us anywhere near her.
“We took her to a vet in Ras Al Khaimah who was of the same mindset that it was a fighting dog due to the number of horrific scars all over her.”
William originally from New Zealand, who has run the centre for five years since it opened in 2012, said she had seen 30-40 dogs pass through her care that had been used for illegal dog fighting in the UAE and that of the 300 dogs she currently has in her care, six were former fighting dogs, including Milly.
“We often get pit bulls who have been ripped to bits who we treat and successfully rehouse once their behaviour improves but it takes a lot of care and attention.”
Of these alleged dog fighting rings, William claimed: “Up until recently a well known kennel in Umm Al Quwain was used as a facade for fights where people from all over the GCC region would come to bet on fights for Dh100,000 to Dh200,000 at a time.
“It’s about money and the dogs are made to fight to their death. They were shut down in 2015 by local authorities but there’s another in Falaj Al Mualla still operating as is the one in Khor Fakkan, which I visited and saw 25 pit bulls chained and trained to fight.
“There’s no official acknowledgement from the authorities that this exists but they know very well that this is happening. I’ve lost faith in animal welfare now as the laws are nothing more than words. Nobody takes it seriously in the smaller emirates and it’s especially hard to monitor in the smaller emirates especially with the attitude towards dogs here.”
Umm Al Quwain Police said: “If anyone comes across such incidents they should come to the police station and report it and they will be connected with Animal Welfare if needed.”