Sharjah: Sharjah Municipality has announced plans to prevent overcrowding and sickness at the Birds and Animal Market in Al Jubail, following complaints from animal rescuers.
Complaints ranged from overcrowding, to illness and subsequent abandonment, but when Gulf News contacted the municipality for comment, they said the issues had been, and would continue to be, addressed.
“Sharjah Municipality is always seeking to provide the necessary welfare for animals,” a spokesperson told Gulf News.
“According to the state’s specifications, the municipality determined the number of animals and prevented their [over] accumulation in cages.
“It also made it an offence [to put a large number of animals in one area] to preserve the life and well-being of these animals.”
The statement added that Sharjah Municipality had a permanent office and had even added a new veterinary laboratory on site to monitor conditions and receive complaints.
Through this, “all necessary health aspects from the time of entry of the animal to the market until the time of leaving [were covered] in order to preserve human as well as animal health and welfare.”
Sharjah Municipality is always seeking to provide the necessary welfare for animals.
Officials also “refuse to enter any doubtful animals” or those of an “unknown origin” into the market.
“The municipality also plans to modernise and develop the market to make it a privileged location to provide all services necessary to purchase a healthy animal.”
Mohammad Al Zaabi, Director of the Environmental Compliance Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE), said: “We would like to assure citizens and residents that the ministry takes all reports of abuse against birds and animals seriously, and clamps down on violators as needed.
“When we receive a report about a store abusing animals or mishandling them, or housing sick animals, the ministry dispatches judicial officers to inspect the facility and, should the report prove valid, issue seizure notices against the violators and holds them accountable.
“Furthermore, we urge members of the public to step forward and report acts of animal cruelty or ill treatment. They can do that directly at the Sharjah Municipality office in the market, by visiting one of MoCCAE’s customer happiness centres, or by contacting the ministry on the hotline: 8003050 or via email at email@example.com.”
Jessica Carlsson, an animal rescuer who had previously called for stricter regulation on the number of animals per cage, said: “Any change is a step in the right direction. A number of shops have closed and I haven’t picked up as many stray cats from outside the market, only 2-3 over the past two months, when on some days alone I used to pick up eight,” added Carlsson, who estimates that she has picked up 50-60 cats from outside the market over the past two years.
Hind Al Matroushi, another animal rescuer, said problems still exist at the market however, especially in the form of the Friday open market where private sellers could come in and sell to the public, without necessarily abiding by the same rules applied to shops, she claims.
“The problem is there is no dedicated entity responsible for implementing the law,” said Al Matroushi. “Who is enforcing and implementing it? No-one. They don’t have the authority to fine or prosecute. The municipality can’t, and the police say it’s not their job.”
Both women had complained about cramped conditions leading to sickness in animals, resulting in abandonment by shops and traders. They had also said the area had become a dumping ground for people that no longer wanted their pets, especially during summer when a number of people moved away or went on holiday.
Problem with microchips
Mandatory microchips inserted in a pet’s neck should be able to identify the owner of a pet in the case of illegal abandonment leading to fines of Dh50,000. However, both Carlsson and Al Matroushi said that despite owners having paid vets to insert these chips there remained no central database where these chips were kept on record, with which to identify the owners on the system via their Emirates ID.