It just became absolutely illegal to keep an exotic animal as a pet in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Exotic pets have long been seen as status symbols in the country — it hasn't been unusual to see a cheetah being led around by a leash.
But now owning a tiger, cheetah, lion, ape or other exotic pet carries a fine of
up to 500,000 dirhams — equivalent to $136,000 — and possible jail time.
"Only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breeding and research centers are entitled to keep wild or exotic animals," Gulf News reported. "The public is urged to report cases of wild animals being kept as pets."
The new law is a big win for animal advocates who seek to speak up for wild animals kept in captivity, especially those who are trafficked from the wild only to show up on social media, led by leashes or dressed up in outfits (the UAE has long been a hub of the exotic animal trade).
"Government action is essential to protect wild animals from the destructive pet trade, and with the Middle East being the primary destination for cheetah cubs as pets, the conservation of the species rests on decisions such as this," Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, told The Dodo. "Where the UAE has been a destination country for cheetah cubs stolen and smuggled from Africa, perhaps now the market will be closed down. And instead of glorifying the keeping of cheetahs as pets, now it will become taboo."
Amazingly enough, the same can't be said for the U.S., where it is still legal in some states to own an exotic animal — even a tiger — as a pet.
"Other governments, including the U.S., need to follow suit and do more to stop the trade in wild animals as pets," Roberts said.
To help exotic animals rescued from backyards across the U.S. you can donate to Big Cat Rescue here.