Three men in the United Arab Emirates accused of feeding a cat to two dogs, while the cat was still alive, were sentenced on Wednesday to clean the Dubai zoo for three months.
"The idea of community service as punishment for certain crimes is not widespread in the Middle East, so opting for it is incredibly smart," said Sara Abu Bakr, an Egyptian animal rights advocate and rescuer.
Going viral on social media and sparking anger, a video of an Emirati and two foreigners shows them offering the cat to two Rottweilers in an open cage. The Emirati man is overheard shouting that the cat eats chicken and pigeons, after which he orders the dogs to "eat the cat, eat it".
"Having these 'men' clean the zoo is a good idea, if they start to understand how animals feel through this experience. Also, [this] is an insult to many, in particular, to rich people living in the Gulf, though there is nothing wrong with being a cleaner, but class distinction is alive and well in Arab communities, hence the insult," Abu Bakr believes.
Under a recently enacted law on animal cruelty, the men could also face prosecution. Law No. 18 of 2016 stipulates punishment of up to a year in prison or a fine of up to 200,000 dirhams ($54,500).
Vice-president and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered "those detained for torturing the cat to perform community service by cleaning the Dubai zoo for four hours a day for three months," according to a government statement. The sentence came a day after the man and his two employees were arrested by Dubai police at a farm.
"The crime committed by those negligent men contradicts basic human norms. The cruelty demonstrated in this barbaric act violates our values and the principles of our religion, which tell us to be humane with animals," the statement added, saying that such savage and cruel behavior is against the community’s values and against the Islamic religion, which always encourages mercy for animals.
Minister of Climate Change and Environment Thani Al Zeyoudi stated that this is the first offender on which the new regulations have been applied, according to The National.
"Would it stop others? Not likely, because people who enjoy torturing animals are sadistic and need intensive counseling. Most serial killers started their 'hobby' by killing small, helpless creatures. Yes, of course implementing it in other countries is a must, but I'd recommend forcing such offenders to go through intensive therapy because, in the end, they will hurt humans as well as animals," were Abu Bakr’s final thoughts.
Animal rights advocates in the UAE are now calling for a hotline where people can report instances of animal abuse.