Life can bite if you’re a pet-loving man in Riyadh. A law passed in the Saudi capital mid-2008 prohibited men from walking dogs or taking cats out and about in the city.
In fact, whilst existing pooches and moggies have to be kept indoors, the law also states that you can’t buy such animals anymore.
What’s Wrong With Rover?
According to a July ‘08 AP article, the justification given for the ban was that some Riyadh men were using their pets to get close to women and in some cases, harangue them.
Dogs and cats were being used to break the ice between guys and girls on the streets, something that’s an absolute no-no in Riyadh where the sexes are strictly separated.
Apparently, men caught pet-handed risk having their furry friends confiscated by Saudi religious police, AKA the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Smell a Rat?
Speculation wafted around Riyadh that the ban might really be a guise to control pet ownership, seen as an external influence. Dog ownership has not been part of Saudi culture until relatively recently. Cats, though, have and are particularly highly regarded by some Muslims, as one of Prophet Muhammad’s closest companions was given the name Abu Huraira, Arabic for “the father of the kitten.”
Abu Huraira went everywhere carrying a kitten, and some traditional stories portray Muhammad encouraging people to treat cats well.
Further rumblings on the issue came from the fact that a pet-shop owner in the city had never heard of the ban, and he wasn’t the only one…
The AP article also mentions that men don’t often walk dogs in Riyadh and even less walk cats.
What’s more, it’s unsure whether Saudi men and women are even really adhering to the ban. In 2004, cell phones with camera were banned in Saudi Arabia, as devices for photographing the opposite sex. The ban was swiftly lifted when the demand got too great for imported phones and a large contingent of Saudis blatantly ignored it and carried on snapping happily.
Are you a Saudi pet owner? What’s the score with the Pooch Prohibition? Please let us know!