Concerns rise in Maghreb after repeated attacks by stray dogs

The prosecutor’s office in Gabès, in southeastern Tunisia, opened an investigation Friday into the death of a 16-year-old girl attacked by dogs on her way to school.

Residents of this agricultural area recently complained of a sharp increase in the number of stray dogs that also prey on livestock.

In Algeria, at the beginning of March, little Salah Eddine, 12, was “devoured by dogs” in Blida, near Algiers, according to his uncle who said that “only the bones of the lower part of his body.

Stray dogs on the street in Tunis, December 29, 2021 AFP / Fethi Belaid.

In this country, “the only method used by municipal authorities to combat stray animals is capture and slaughter”told Dr. Abdelmoumen Boumaza, a veterinarian, told AFP. But, he laments, they don’t act “only in emergencies, when there are cases of rabies”.

Tunisia, for its part, assures that it has taken action: the Ministry of Agriculture has provided a free rabies vaccination service and has set itself the target of rapidly vaccinating 70 to 80% of dogs in Tunis.

Frequent outages

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 inhabitants, editor’s note), the positivity of roaming carnivores is 55%”the ministry said.

Stray dogs at an animal protection association shelter in Ariana, near Tunis, on February 9, 2022 AFP / FETHI BELAID.

Why such proliferation? In recent years, Tunisians have resorted to dogs instead of expensive alarm systems to protect their property, said AFP Nowel Lakech, president of the Association for the Protection of Animals of Tunisia (PAT).

But abandonment is common, especially when the females have young. For example, it is not uncommon for a passer-by to come face to face with a pack of dogs in the capital.

The PAT would like “Law obliges owners to tag their dogs so that they can no longer be put on the street with impunity” and that every municipality has a management center for stray dogs.

There are six for all of Tunisia: “We have won a battle, but not yet the war”remarks Ms Lakech, convinced that the associations are doing it “state work”

Municipal workers transport a stray dog ​​caught in a net in Tunis on December 29, 2021. AFP / Fethi Belaid.

And many town halls “continue slaughter, even those who have a vaccination and sterilization center”she complains.

In recent months, bloody campaigns, especially on the tourist island of Djerba, have sparked protests by animal rights activists on social networks.

long agony

“After being shot, dogs can torment for hours. We leave them without worrying about whether they are dead or injured”Mrs Lakech protests.

Stray dogs at Bouhanach animal shelter, February 9, 2022 in Ariana, near Tunis AFP / FETHI BELAID.

In the Bouhanach shelter in Ariana, near Tunis, dozens of dogs are housed by the PAT, who are trying to find a home for them.

The refuge was built five years ago thanks to private donations and covers an area of ​​2,600 square meters.

The center has already welcomed almost 500 residents. Sometimes, in the absence of a local adoptive family, the PAT sends the dogs abroad with “flight sponsors”during transport.

Veterinarian of the sterilization vaccination center in Tunis, Dr. Mahmoud Latiri has vaccinated more than 2,500 animals, mainly dogs, and performed numerous sterilizations in two years.

“Without mass sterilization, the streets will be overrun with stray dogs”warns Dr Mahmoud.

dr. Mahmoud Latiri, veterinarian of the sterilization vaccination center of Tunis, operates a dog to sterilize her, on December 29, 2021 in Tunis AFP / FETHI BELAID.

Two days a week, a team from the center wanders the streets of the capital looking for stray dogs to vaccinate and sterilize them.

The State also signed an agreement with partners in Morocco in 2019 “to sterilize, vaccinate and identify stray dogs”.

Despite this, many “Municipalities organize the butchering of dogs on the street or in shelters under appalling conditions”AFP indignantly told the president of the IRHAM association (“have mercy”) Zainab Taqane.

In Libya, unlike its neighbors, the phenomenon is stray dogs “under control”says Marwan El-Bouri, a vet in Tripoli, who sees few of them hanging out on the street.

Perhaps because with the proliferation of weapons, some do not hesitate to shoot them.

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