Lion barred: UAE gets tough on big cat craze

Lion barred: UAE gets tough on big cat craze
Jail time and hefty fines await Emiratis who take their big cats out in public, as the UAE looks to curb the trend of keeping exotic pets at home.
2 min read
04 Jan, 2017
Only zoos and other specialist centres will be able to keep exotic animals [Getty]
Big cat lovers in the UAE were dealt with crushing news on Tuesday, when authorities announced a total ban of keeping exotic animals as pets.

Leopards, lions and other big beasts won't be able to take a spin through the Emirates' streets from now on, with their owners' facing six months in jail and a fine of up to 500,000 dinars [$136,000] if they are caught flouting the new rule.

Personal menageries were seen as a fashionable addition to homes in the UAE and other Gulf states, and a symbol of wealth during the oil boom years.

A growing number of Emiratis have been caught on film taking their leopards, cheetahs and even lions out for walks or going for a cruise down Dubai's highways.

Panic struck Dubai in October, when a video went viral claiming to show a group of tigers frolicking on the beach close to the city state's iconic Burj al-Arab hotel.

In January, a lioness strolled out of her home in Dubai and prowled the streets for three hours before being caught.

Other big cities in the Gulf have seen their own big cat escapes.

Abu Dhabi now says that only zoos and other licensed centres will be able to retain wild or exotic animals, and warned the public to keep a lookout on big cats in homes.

The UAE also warned of jail sentences for people who use animals to attack or terrorise others.

Even dog owners aren't safe from the tough new rules, with a law stating that canines must be kept on a leash at all times in public and be registered with local authorities.

But the ban on big cats will be a tough habit to break for some of the UAE's most well-heeled, who might be reluctant to lose their ultimate status symbol.