KUWAIT: Bored of your regular lazy cat or your sweet little dog? How about making things interesting with a cheetah or a tiger, lazing around with you in your living room? Breeding wild animals like cheetahs, lions, tigers, or crocodiles is becoming common in Kuwait.

It’s not strange anymore to see a young man driving his car with a cheetah sitting next to him in the front seat. Some use wild animals like big cats or baby monkeys to attract attention from girls. These wild animals are taken out of their natural environment and raised as house pets.

They get used to people who take care of them and feed them, despite being dangerous animals. Wildlife experts think that they should be placed back in their natural habitat instead of creating an artificial environment for them.

Though many people want to keep these animals, not everyone can take care of them. When they realize that it could pose a danger to them or their family, they conveniently abandon them in the desert or sometimes, the animal tends to escape and venture out on its own, much to society’s chagrin.

Recently, Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAAFR) found an escaped baby lion. “This lion is popular as its photo was published in the press after being found in the chalets area in Kheiran. PAAAFR brought it to us to keep it quarantined for 21 days and then move it to the zoo because we don’t have enough space to keep it. This small lion is now kept in a cage and I feel sorry for it as it needs special care. Its owner removed its teeth and claws and it can’t tear or chew hard meat. It can only eat soft food and we don’t know what to do with it after 21 days, frankly speaking,” an employee who preferred to stay anonymous admitted at the Kuwait Zoo.

These animals are expensive. “The owner of this lion contacted the zoo and demanded it back as it cost him KD 3,000, but we won’t return it. According to the law, people are not allowed to possess, breed, or trade with wild animals. We don’t receive calls from owners as they are expensive and so they prefer to hide them.

The zoo has limited resources, so we can’t buy them also. The owner of the baby lion claimed that he took it to his chalet, and somebody stole it. The thief couldn’t handle it and abandoned it on the road. The lion is sad about being separated from its mother,” added the employee. The law allows confiscating of wild animals but not from private residences. “PAAAFR has trained staff to deal with wild animals and is responsible for confiscating them in public places.

We can also confiscate them from the animal markets, pens, or farms as these follow PAAAFR. But we are not allowed to enter a house, so in this case we need the help and cooperation of the Ministry of Interior. So if the policemen helped us enter the house or its garden, we can then catch the wild animal.

If the owner of the animal called us to take the animal and transfer it to the zoo, we comply,” said Shakir Awadh, PR at PAAAFR. Colonel Adel Al-Hashash, PR and Moral Guidance Director of the Ministry of Interior assured that the Ministry of Interior is cooperating with PAAAFR. “If we received a statement about a wild animal threatening people, we secure the place, organize the traffic and so on but we don’t catch the animals because it is the responsibility of PAAAFR’s staff. In some emergency cases, the policeman can immediately deal with the animal to avoid any danger or risk,” he pointed out.

Psychiatrist Dr Adnan Al-Shatti said that wild animals will behave as pets at home when they are treated that way but their hunter instincts will kick in when they’re hungry. “Wild animals feel jealous the same way as other domestic animals or humans and they seek attention. If a child was already in the house before it came along, it will accept him but if the child came later, it will become jealous and hostile. The wild animals don’t attack animals of the same kind, but they have a tendency to attack other animals, and they may consider humans as animals and attack them when they’re hungry.

If a child is attacked by an animal, it will suffer psychiatric trauma for the rest of his life even if the physical injuries heal,” he explained. Attorney Saleh Al-Huseini spoke about the responsibility of animals’ breeders. “According to Article No. 243 of the Civil Law, the breeders are responsible for taking care of their animals and also for the damage these animals cause. So in case the animal injures a person, the owner should compensate for the injured person and is responsible for his welfare,” he stated.

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