Concern mounts in the Maghreb after repeated stray dog ​​attacks

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

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

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

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

In this country, “the only method used by municipal services to control stray animals is capture and slaughter”, Dr. Abdelmoumen Boumaza, a veterinarian, told AFP. But, he laments, they do not act “only in an emergency, when there are cases of rabies”.

For its part, Tunisia assures that it has taken action: the Ministry of Agriculture has made available a free anti-rabies vaccination service and has set itself the goal of quickly vaccinating 70 to 80% of dogs in Tunis.

Frequent dropouts

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 wandering carnivores is 55%”according to the ministry.

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

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

But abandonment is frequent, especially when the females have young. Thus, it is not uncommon for a passerby to come face to face with a pack of dogs in the capital.

The PAT would like “a law obliging owners to mark their dogs so that they can no longer be thrown into the street with impunity” and that each municipality have a stray dog ​​management centre.

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

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

And many town halls “continue the slaughter, including those that have a vaccination and sterilization center”she laments.

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

long agony

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

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

At the Bouhanach refuge in Ariana, near Tunis, dozens of dogs are housed by the PAT, which is trying to find them a home.

Built five years ago thanks to private donations, the refuge covers an area of ​​2,600 square meters.

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

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

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

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

Two days a week, a team from the center roams the streets of the capital in search of stray dogs to vaccinate and sterilize them.

In Morocco too, the State 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 street or in the pound in horrible conditions”indignantly told AFP the president of the IRHAM association (“have mercy”) Zainab Taqane.

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

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

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