DUBAI // Owners of dangerous dogs are in limbo following new directives on keeping pets listed as illegal in the UAE.
A six-month amnesty has been announced allowing owners time to remove their dogs from the country, but many are unsure when that grace period will begin.
Some have been reassured that dogs will not be destroyed, but instead rounded up and sent to no-kill shelters before being legally rehomed overseas, while others have been told their animals will be confiscated immediately.
A new federal law expanded the banned breed list from seven to 12 this year, but there is confusion about when it comes into force.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the government department tasked with animal welfare issues, is yet to issue clear guidance and a time-frame for owners of banned breeds.
Sara Al Zaki helps with a rehoming centre for banned breeds in Warsan, Dubai, but said her work will now be severely restricted.
“I’ve owned pit bulls for a long time,” she said. “Does that mean I have to now surrender my dogs? It would make sense to not allow people to own such breeds after the law was enacted, rather than take dogs away who are in a safe home.
“This seems like a testing period for the authorities to see how the law will work in practice. They are being really strict, and some dogs are being confiscated now, but there is confusion about how the laws will be implemented across the country.”
Banned dogs include all types of pit bull, wolf-dog hybrids, American Staffordshire terriers, Japanese Tosa, Brazilian and Argentinian mastiffs and crossbreeds of any of the these six types of dog.
Other breeds added to the banned list this year include the American bully, rottweilers, breed or hybrid, doberman pinschers, perro de presa canario and boxer dogs.
Ms Al Zaki helps rescue about five prohibited dogs each month, with more rejected due to the lack of space at the rehoming centre in Al Warsan. The most common are American bulldogs, boxers, pit bulls or hybrids and are already being shipped abroad to homes in America, Canada and Europe.
“There has not been a clear message on what owners should do with their dogs that are now on the banned list,” she said.
“A lot of people are worried about this and what it means for them. All I can say is to sit and wait for clarification on how the law will be enforced.
“I deal a lot with the banned breeds, and they are very common in Dubai. Many people have adopted these as pets after they have been abandoned.”
Previously, unregistered illegal dogs considered too dangerous for the UAE could be registered by owners if proven to be safe and controlled.
Owners were allowed to keep them under a grandfather clause, a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases.
That has since been revoked, with some owners suspecting recent high-profile abuse cases may have triggered a rethink.
New rules also state any banned breeds found unattended or running free will not be returned to their owners and confiscated by the municipality.
During the six-month grace period, owners must ensure their dogs are always on the leash and muzzle to avoid immediate confiscation.
“While I believe in strict rules, there has to be a reasonable approach to this new law,” said animal welfare volunteer Evelyn Priess.
“Hundreds of expats were allowed to bring their banned breeds with them into the UAE while relocating. The now ‘banned’ breeds have been sold in pet shops and it was allowed so far, so how can an owner who got clear approvals and found these breeds in licensed pet shops within the country now be requested to submit them to the respective municipalities?
“While a stricter way forward is certainly required and necessary, the good and decent owners should not be punished for a few wrongdoers within the dog owner community.”
The ministry did not respond to requests for comment.