Saudi Arabia: A ban on cats and dogs

Earlier this week in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, a ban was announced on selling cats and dogs as pets, or walking them in public, because of men apparently using them to make passes at women. Bloggers both inside and outside the kingdom have responded with disbelief.

The head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, who are known as the muttawa or religious police, explained that the commission was simply enforcing a previously issued religious edict.

Ahmed, a Saudi blogger, says:

I have been trying to avoid writing about the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice lately because, frankly, why beat a dead horse? But this one is just too good to miss… Now I’m not particularly a fan of cats and dogs. My friends who are pet owners know this, and they usually keep their pets away when I visit them. It’s not like I have anything against these animals but I just have this fear of getting too close to them. Still, this decision is just idiotic.
But before we get more into this, let’s go back a little bit. This whole ban thing has actually started in Jeddah two years ago. At the time, Jeddah’s Commission said that young Saudis who go out in streets with their pet dogs are violating of the Kingdom’s culture and traditions, and allegedly causing distress especially to families with young children. (But) the ban was never implemented. … However, although Riyadh and Jeddah are two big cities in the same country, they can be quite different on matters like these. The Commission is much, much more powerful in Riyadh than in Jeddah and therefore I expect this ban to be fully implemented in the capital.
Of course it is needless to say how ridiculous this whole thing is. The reason the Commission presented for the ban is kind of a joke, really: “because of men using them as a means of making passes at women,” they said. So you go and ban dogs and cats? How about punishing those so-called men? I guess you are too busy invading people’s privacy and controlling their lives to bother with few men who use their pets to annoy others.

American Bedu, an American woman and former diplomat now married to a Saudi, says:

I believe there are much more serious issues that need to be focused and acted upon instead of the impact pets may have on bringing the opposite sex together.

Sabra, an American living in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, doesn't have the energy to say much about this issue – but she tells us an anecdote about an animal being protected in the street:

I'm not even going to weigh-in on this one. I'm just gonna shake my head and mutter to myself that I live in a “LFZ.” [Logic Free Zone.]

I saw something rather sweet two days ago when The Kids and I were out for our morning walk. As we rounded the corner to walk down one of the alleys there was a young boy – a Saudi boy – and a cat. The young boy – maybe six or eight years old – saw me coming with my small Great Dane and bouncing black fur-ball of energy Standard Poodle and quickly bent down and scooped up the cat – as if protecting the cat from being used as a live squeak-toy and walked between two houses out of sight. I never, ever would let my Kids get close enough to a cat to harm it – and I had tight control of both leashes – a reflex whenever I spot a cat. It was just really touching – heart-warming even – the way the young boy thought to and made such an effort to ensure the cat's safety. [And, for the record, some of the “wild and stray” cats here – of which there ARE many – would be like buzz-saws on the muzzles of my two Kids if I ever allowed the Kids to get close enough.]

However Grace, an American woman working in Riyadh, can see the point of limiting the number of stray animals:

Look, I have to say this. There are so many street cats here roaming around the DQ [Diplomatic Quarter] that my former feline friendliness has been replaced with total disgust as the one eyed cat comes popping out of the trash can as I walk by on a daily basis. I walk into my apartment building and kitties bolt out the front door of the common area. Outside the grocery store a pile of baby kittens are nursing on an equally disturbing pile of trash. Call it cultural differences but I must say, in general, they do clean things pretty well here and have a great trash service. But the cats are just allowed to breed at will and being here does allow me to appreciate animal control.

John Burgess, a former US foreign service officer who blogs about Saudi Arabia, posted about this subject, and then in the comments section joked:

BTW, contrary to the beliefs of some, there is no etymological relationship between the words ‘mutt’ and ‘muttawa’.

Finally, Aafke, a Dutch blogger, provides us with a guide to using pets for mating:

So especially for those unlucky people stuck in a place where pets are going to be forbidden, here is a crash course in how to use pets for maximum result. … Why does the ”Pet-Thing” work? Apparently humans, and other animals, are programmed to go all ”Aaaaahhhhh, Cuuuute” when confronted by small fluffy little cute harmless somethings looking into our eyes. So use that programming and get your pet home before it’s too late! And of course for everybody else bend on some really scintillating, steaming, hot, sexy, romantic encounters: Read This!


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