Stray animals jeopardise public safety in Sharjah and are considered a major cause of road accidents and casualties, according to a senior police officer.

He said five people were killed and 35 others seriously injured in 542 traffic accidents caused by stray animals here between 1999 and 2000.

"In August alone, this year, one person was killed and 22 others injured in car accidents caused by stray animals," said the officer.

He added most such accidents occurred on two-way roads, like Al Mudam-Al Dhaid Road, which is known as the 'Road of Death'.

"Other dangerous roads are Al Dhaid-Masafi Road and Al Dhaid-Fallaj Al Mualla Road," said the officer.

He added that stray animals, basically camels, enter the main road suddenly, surprising motorists.

"Motorists cannot control their vehicles when stray animals appear before them suddenly. Such accidents are usually very dangerous because the animal may turn the car over," said the police officer.

He said Sharjah Police takes all measures to avoid such serious accidents on main roads.

"There is always great cooperation between Sharjah Police and other departments, such as Sharjah Municipality and the Public Works Department, to find solutions to the problem.

"We try to monitor the roads always by keeping police patrols alerted, and operating radar to control speeding vehicles. But better lighting will help ease the problem since most serious accidents occur at night, as motorists cannot see the animals from a distance."

He added that the emirate needs a better road network to reduce the number of accidents. "Mesh should also be set up on both sides of the roads to prevent stray animals from walking across and disturbing motorists," said the officer.

People who leave their animals to stray should be penalised, he added.

Abdullah Shuwaikh, Head of the Public Relations Section at Sharjah Municipality, said the municipality has set up a unit to deal with stray animals.

"In the last two months, the unit took charge of 172 stray sheep and dealt with 1,200 camels that were straying across roads," said Al Shuwaikh.

The owners of sheep are usually fined, while camels and cows are only removed from public roads.

According to municipality laws, he said, the owners of any animal – camels, horses, cows, sheep – should keep their animals tethered or grazing at safe distances instead of letting them stray into public areas.

"If a stray animal hits a vehicle, causes damage, or kills the motorist, the animal's owner should pay compensation in case the motorist has not broken traffic rules. But if the driver was speeding, then the owner of the animal get compensated for damage," said Al Shuwaikh.