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DUBAI — The UAE has been a signatory to the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1990 and has over the years been in the vanguard of those countries seeking to prevent illegal trade. In turn, this has led to more stringent legislation on the import of ‘livestock’ as a whole, requiring certification in terms of health and provenance. But invariably there are holes in the net.
For most people, the main area of concern is the importation of household pets such as dogs and cats. These can be brought into the UAE perfectly legally provided that each animal has been officially certified. However, many people do buy dogs and cats within the UAE from legitimate breeders and importers. But not all importers deal with totally legitimate sources.
“At one time we were in contact with a supplier in Bulgaria,” says Samer Ayach, Manager of Petzone, “but when we found that they had mafia connections, we immediately ceased trading with them.”
According to Dubai veterinarian Dr Max Spicer, the trade in dogs and cats that carry fraudulent certification is rife.
“Many of these animals are brought in with certification that states that they are older than they actually are,” he says. “They should be at least four months old before importation. Animals frequently come in to the country with ringworm or distemper which may not show up for 22 days.”
The discrepancy in age has led to mistakes and errors in the vaccination process. If the animal is less than six weeks old, vaccines for diseases such as Parvo virus in dogs and feline leukaemia in cats may well be rendered ineffective by the presence of antibodies in the blood supplied by colostrum from the sire. As the antibodies dissipate, the animal will be vulnerable to infectious diseases while the owner will assume that he or she has taken the appropriate preventative measures.
The answer to this possible conundrum is to have your possible future pet’s age to be professionally verified by a vet. An action strongly recommended by Dr Spicer and encouraged by Ayach.
But the real dangers do not necessarily lie with the import of standard domestic animals but with the more exotic species. One effect of CITES and legislation in the UAE has been to close pet shops in the emirates and/or to refuse licensing. In some cases, closures have been made due to perceived lack of care and in others to curb the sale of species deemed inappropriate. But this has not deterred either buyers or sellers as the lucrative business transfers to the Internet.
The line-up at UAEPets.com includes a variety of reptiles, mammals and spiders for sale. While reptiles such as corn and milk snakes have long been kept as pets, the list also includes pythons and a four-feet-long adult Colombian Red Tail Boa Constrictor for Dh 2,500. The difficulty for laymen reading the CITES appendices with regard to endangered species is that all the names are in Latin. Varieties of both pythons and other constrictors appear on Appendix One.
The site also features the Cobalt Blue tarantula and once again some of the tarantula families appear on the CITES appendices. But an additional concern is the potential dangers to the unwary purchaser.
Bighairyspiders.com says of the Cobalt Blue: “She’s incredibly beautiful but don’t touch!” This big tarantula is capable of tackling surprisingly large prey and is extremely aggressive. Some species listed on the site also appear on CITES Appendix One. Trying to obtain a comment from the UAEPets proved to be fruitless.
Another Internet supplier of exotic species, Petandets.com agreed that it was difficult to communicate with its competitor. Their site also carries adverts for constricting snakes with the variation of a Rose Hair tarantula and an Emperor Scorpion. Although the web site is more limited, there seems to be few restrictions on supply.
“If you want something, we can get it for you,” says Obaid Ghalaithah. While not all of these sales are illegal, purchasers should check carefully before agreeing to buy.