The murder of a schoolgirl after an attack by stray dogs in Tunisia, a boy killed by a herd in Algeria … The spread of stray dogs worries the Maghreb, but the systematic slaughter, the main solution adopted in the face of this phenomenon, is criticized by animal defenders.
The public prosecutor’s office in Gabes, southeast of Tunisia, on Friday opened an investigation following the murder of a 16-year-old girl, who was attacked by dogs on her way to school. The residents of this agricultural region had recently complained of a sharp increase in the number of stray dogs that also feed on livestock.
In Algeria, at the beginning of March, it was the child Salah El-Din, 12, who was “devoured by dogs” in Blida, near Algiers, according to his uncle, who said “only the bones of the lower part of his body.” A veterinarian, Dr. Abdelmoumen Boumaza in this country pointed out that “the only method used by municipal departments to fight stray animals is capturing and slaughtering.” But he regrets that they act only “in case of emergency, when there are situations of anger.” For its part, Tunisia asserts that it has taken measures: the Ministry of Agriculture has made the rabies vaccination service available free of charge and has set itself the goal of quickly vaccinating 70-80% of dogs in Tunis.
There is an emergency: five people, bitten by stray dogs, died of rabies in the country in 2021, and “at the level of Greater Tunis (2 million people), stray carnivores are 55% positive,” according to the ministry. . Why this spread? In recent years, Tunisians have turned to dogs instead of expensive alarm systems to protect their property, says Noel Lakch, president of the Animal Protection Association of Tunisia. But desertion is frequent, especially when females give birth to young. Thus, it is not uncommon for passers-by to come face to face with a pack of dogs in the capital.
PAT wants “a law requiring owners to tag their dogs so that they cannot be dumped on the street with impunity” and for each municipality to be equipped with a management center for stray dogs. There are six for all of Tunisia: “We won a battle but the war has not yet been won,” Noel Lakch notes, considering that associations do “the work of the state.” And many municipalities “continue to slaughter, including those that have a vaccination and sterilization center,” she said wistfully. In recent months, bloody crackdowns, especially on the tourist island of Djerba, have led to protests by animal rights activists on social networks.
“After being shot, dogs can agonize for hours. We leave them without worrying about whether they have been killed or injured,” protests Ms. Lakish. At the Bouhnach shelter in Ariana, near Tunis, dozens of dogs have been housed by PAT, who is trying to find a home for them. Built five years ago thanks to private donations, the shelter covers an area of 2,600 square metres. The center has already received nearly 500 residents. Sometimes, due to the lack of a local adoptive family, the PAT sends the dogs abroad with “flying sponsors,” while they are being transported.
Vaccination and sterilization are essential
The veterinarian at the Center for Vaccination and Sterilization in Tunis, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Tiri, vaccinated more than 2,500 heads in two years, mostly dogs, and performed many sterilizations. The vet warns that “without thorough sterilization, the streets will be overrun with stray dogs.” Two days a week, a team from the center roams the streets of the capital looking for stray dogs to be vaccinated and sterilized.
Also in Morocco, the country signed an agreement in 2019 with partners to “sterilize, vaccinate and identify stray dogs.” Despite this, many “municipalities organize the slaughter of dogs in the streets or in the pound in appalling conditions,” indignant at the president of the Irham (“have mercy”) association Zeinab Taqan.
In Libya, unlike its neighbours, the phenomenon of stray dogs is “under control,” said Marwan Al-Buri, a veterinarian in Tripoli, who sees few of them roaming the streets. Perhaps because with the proliferation of weapons, some do not hesitate to shoot them.