Updated at 4pm with statement from The Pearl-Qatar property managers UDC.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has issued a warning to Qatar residents of the dangers of illegally keeping large, wild animals as pets.
In a practice that’s popular among some segments of society in Qatar and across the Gulf region, wild cats – particularly cheetahs and lions – are favored as exotic pets.
Photographs have been posted on social media over the years showing the big cats around town, sitting in the passenger seat of SUVs and speed boats.
— Claire White (@clairehardiman) November 7, 2012
Meanwhile, Qatar Living has in the past featured adverts for the sale of these potentially dangerous animals, with price tags of up to QR40,000.
However, as keeping wild animals as pets is against the law in Qatar, the MoI has recently taken to social media to warn residents of the potential repercussions of the hobby.
It particularly highlights the fact that while animals may appear domesticated, they are innately wild and can suddenly “turn” on their owner, keeper or another person nearby at any moment.
“These hobbies involve serious consequences as the responsibility of the person who pets them goes beyond to other people that reside in the neighborhood or the area as well as those (who) visit parks or open recreational areas. It as well (amounts to a) violation of the prevailing laws that prevent terrorizing innocent people or frightening them.
“These animals cannot be trusted as they are by nature wild and this wild nature cannot be changed by home environment,” The MoI says in a Facebook post.
The MoI signs off its post, asking for comments from residents on what they think should be done, saying: “We look forward to your feedback and suggestions regarding these type of behaviors and how to counter them.”
Meanwhile, rumors of wild cats being spotted as pets at The Pearl-Qatar were confirmed to Doha News by property manger United Development Co. (UDC).
However, it said it has “zero tolerance” for violations of its policies that prohibit exotic and wild animals from being kept within the island, adding it took swift action:
“In one case, a resident kept a lion cub in one of the towers, while in the second case, a cheetah was kept by a resident in a Viva Bahriya tower. In both cases, UDC issued breach notices to the owners warning them to remove the animals immediately, and both animal pets were removed immediately.
“The Lion cub case was dealt with successfully five months ago, immediately upon discovery of this violation, while we dealt successfully with the Cheetah case immediately upon finding out about it three months ago,” UDC spokesman Roger Dagher said in a statement to Doha News.
He said they had received no further reports of wild animals being kept as pets and added that the ministry’s rules would continue to be enforced on The Pearl:
“The Pearl-Qatar is a community in Qatar and is subject to the laws and regulations of the state of Qatar. Therefore, an MoI warning to this effect applies to all residents in Qatar, which necessarily includes all residents at the Pearl-Qatar,” Dagher continued.
The MoI’s warning has attracted considerable comment, particularly from residents who question the strength of enforcement behind the law in Qatar and call for tougher action at the border against smugglers as well as those who keep the animals.
In July this year, the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) called on governments in Qatar and the GCC to step up action against the fashion of raising these big cats as household pets.
It is illegal to internationally trade in live cheetahs, under Article III of the CITES Convention, which Qatar and other GCC countries have signed.
The report said that while some cheetahs may have been bred in captivity, the success rates of captive-bred cubs in the GCC region is low and says that most cheetah pets were likely procured illegally.
It called for the Gulf states to “significantly step up enforcement” measures at their borders as well as internally.
The warning comes just days after a Filipina housemaid in Kuwait died when she was attacked by a lion that was kept as a pet in the house in which she was working.
The woman was “attacked, bitten and parts of her eaten” after the lion apparently escaped when a driver tried to feed it.
She was hospitalized for her injuries but died several days later after she was released, the Kuwait Times reports.
A security source told the newspaper that the lion was one of several wild animals at the house and that the owner, a Kuwaiti citizen, refused to hand over the animals to the zoo.
He has been taken into custody, it was reported.
What would be your suggestions to MoI? Thoughts?