Cheetahs, tigers and lions now illegal pets in the UAE

Story highlights

  • Citizens who own an exotic pet will now face fines and jail sentences
  • Cheetahs, tigers and lions are considered a status symbol across the region

(CNN)Cheetahs, tigers and lions have infamously become a status symbol in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE).

But now wealthy citizens taming such wild animals to keep as pets face a $136,000 (700,000 Dirham) fine or jail.
    After years of pressure from animal welfare groups, the Gulf country has passed a law banning the private ownership and trade of wild and dangerous animals.
    Anyone seen in public walking their exotic pet -- taking a tiger for a stroll may sound ludicrous, but is not unheard of in the UAE -- will have the animal confiscated and could face up to six months in jail, according to a copy of the law obtained by CNN.
    Ronel Barcellos, manager of the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Center, told CNN: "The UAE has come a long way ... I am happy to see that the law has been passed, but steps need to be taken to ensure that it is implemented properly."
    The new law is effective immediately and owners are required to hand over their pets to the authorities.

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    A photo posted by Humaid Abdulla Albuqaish (@humaidalbuqaish) on

    My tiger's bigger than yours

    Ownership of exotic pets has long been considered a status symbol across the Gulf country.
    Wealthy owners have been spotted walking their tigers on public beaches in the UAE, and often post pictures on social media flaunting their exotic animal collection.
    Some owners have showcased their cheetahs in front of luxury cars, while others have gotten up close and personal with the dangerous animals.

    My boy @travisscott had to stop by my farm to visit my animals and sneakerroom. Vlog coming soon!!

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    "The problem in the Middle East is that people are willing to keep wild animals as pets," Elsayed Mohamed, the Middle East regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), told CNN.
    Even the Crown Prince of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, has posted several pictures of himself with a lion on Instagram.

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