DUBAI — Life in the seaside city of Dubai, known for its skyscrapers, restaurants and beaches, has shrunk to the confines of individual homes under a 24-hour lockdown to combat soaring coronavirus infections that reached nearly 3,000 on Friday.
Of all the new movement restrictions, however, a ban on dog walking has hit the affluent expatriate community living in apartment blocks particularly hard.
Dubai authorities have made it clear that dog walking does not fall under the category of permissible activities such as grocery shopping and visiting the pharmacy (which still require an online permit).
Instead, local newspapers have been filled with chipper advice from vets about teaching animals to go to the bathroom inside.
“You basically need to retrain them as if they were a young puppy again,” said one veterinarian to the National newspaper, adding that it will take a lot of time and patience.
Another recommended using puppy training pads inside the apartment.
“These can be kept in the balcony or in a corner of the house where the dog can go to relieve himself or herself,” she told the Gulf News. If these couldn’t be purchased since pet stores were closed, the vet suggested using human incontinence pads.
Dog owners have been predictably outraged, describing being fined almost $1,000 for walking their dogs. One said she has resorted to clandestine walks in the underground parking garage. On a Facebook group for pet owners in one neighborhood, people scoffed at the idea of teaching animals to do their business inside.
“We teach our dogs to not do their business inside. Now all of a sudden, we try to teach them to go inside or [on the] balcony etc. It’s confusing, they’re not used to it. Mine waits until she almost bursts,” said one owner.
Others described how quick walks were ruined when neighbors called the police on them. On Thursday, however, there appeared to be an easing of regulations. On the Dubai police website, a response to a query left a glimmer of hope for anguished pet owners.
“No it is not allowed and is prohibited in all cases. However, some animals should be taken out to relieve themselves. In such cases, it is acceptable but only if it is in front of one’s residence and for no more than 10 minutes,” the response said.