Authorities in several Tunisian cities launched a new campaign in late July to kill stray dogs, an annual practice called barbaric by animal rights groups. This year, however, authorities have gone a step further by hiring hunters to help city workers track down the dogs. Tunisian activists reached out to our team about what they call a ‘massacre’.
Warning: Readers may find some images in this article shocking
The Governorate of Tunis announced on July 21 a campaign to kill stray dogs in the capital and several other cities across the country. Its stated goal was to “ensure the safety of citizens and tourists while protecting the city’s aesthetics.”
The statement added that the cities working with local hunting associations about the slaughter campaign. Local officials claimed they would work simultaneously with local veterinary associations to continue vaccination and sterilization campaigns. However, some of the same associations that authorities claimed were partners took to social media to condemn the killings.
Some of them shared posts with images of dogs that had been shot and killed and then left on the street. Sometimes the animal is still alive, often seriously injured and lying in agony in a pool of blood.
The people who have shared these video clips don’t mince their words when it comes to the authorities.
Videos filmed on June 28 in the Monastir neighborhood, a tourist favorite, show a bloody dog, lying on a highway, next to a pool of dried blood. “In Tunisia, we start our journey with blood, with killed dogs (…) promoting tourism for you – killing stray dogs for the Monastir Ribat… They shoot them in front of children. No one wanted to come and help the dog…”
Khadija, a British citizen who volunteers with organizations that help stray animals, has lived in central Hammamet for over two years. On the morning of June 18, she discovered that several stray dogs she often fed had been shot and killed by city workers.
Didn’t see them shoot but arrived when the streets were full of bodies before sending people to remove them. First I saw a dog on the road, a dog I loved. It looked like she had been hit by a car. I got out of my car to check on her. A few local people said, ‘It was the city council, there are more.’
That night I just saw a few dead, but I heard that there were about 50 dead that night. And we’ve had a lot of shots. I couldn’t search for more bodies, it made me sick, I cried uncontrollably for a few days, I felt numb. They even killed puppies.
It was very harrowing and the first time I experienced anything like this. I do everything I can, like many others, to protect, vaccinate and sterilize as many dogs as possible, but it is never enough and we always lose ourselves in these barbaric acts. It must stop one day.
We often don’t have stock of the rabies vaccination, even for pets. Even when neutering is open, the general public or animal rescuers cannot access the facility, but many of us would volunteer.
However, the Tunisian government promised in 2020 to stop these murder campaignswhich are regularly carried out by the municipal police in Tunisia and denounced by animal rights organisations.
In 2021, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said: in a report that exposing children to violence against animals could harm a child’s moral development and advised Tunisia to stop these practices.
The Tunisian Animal Voice Collective wrote a letter to the Tunisian president in December 2021, calling for an animal protection law to end killing and developing sterilization and vaccination campaigns for stray animals. Launched the same collective an online petition with the same goal, which has collected more than 44,000 signatures.
Malika is the founder of Tunisia Animal Voices, a collective that collects images and testimonies about violence against animals and calls on the authorities and Tunisian associations to help:
We are trying to mobilize as many people as possible online against these murders. Often, city officials will post an announcement on Facebook that they’re going to kill dogs, so that’s when we need to flood the comments section with posts condemning this practice. In 2020, the mayor of Tunis reacted to this, even though she later backtracked on her anti-murder statements.
One of the many volunteers working on site is veterinarian Dr. Soumaya Chouk. She travels to different cities to convince them to choose the TNR (“Trap-Neuter-Release”) method to curb overpopulation and fight rabies.
The Tunisian state offers rabies vaccines to owners of animals. But they don’t provide services to stray animals. They then later kill the same animals, claiming they have rabies.
If the number of rabies increases, it is the direct result of government policy.
The solution is simple: feed them, sterilize them and vaccinate them.
An increasing number of Tunisian cities have indicated their intention to open shelters and initiate sterilization programmes, including Sousse, Raoued and Radès. But they lack financial and medical resources. An Italian-Tunisian organization, L’arca Di Noé (Noah’s Ark), made an offer to the Tunisian Ministry of the Interior in 2021 to provide logistical and financial support to governments that want to follow this project. Other municipalities, such as Djerba, categorically refuse to adopt the TNR method, citing locals seeking a more radical solution to the island’s dog overpopulation.
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