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At the end of July, several Tunisian municipalities announced that they were launching a campaign to cull stray dogs, an annual practice widely decried as barbaric by animal welfare organizations. New: the authorities plan to hire hunters who will help municipal agents track down street dogs. Tunisian activists have contacted our editorial staff to draw attention to this practice, which they describe as carnage.
Warning, some images appearing in this article may shock
In a statement posted on July 21 on its Facebook page, the governorate of Tunis announced a campaign to cull stray dogs in Tunis and several other municipalities in the country. The work plan, established in May 2022, claims to “ensure the safety of citizens and tourists and preserve the aesthetics” of cities.
The press release adds that the municipalities are now collaborating with associations of hunters, while ensuring “to continue vaccination and sterilization campaigns” for stray dogs in collaboration with veterinary associations. The campaign is nevertheless denounced by these same organizations, with supporting images, on social networks.
On most of them, we see the bodies of dogs shot dead, abandoned in the streets or in dumpsters. Sometimes the animal is still alive, though seriously injured, and lies dying in a pool of blood. The authors of the video extracts do not mince their words about the government’s decision.
In videos filmed on June 28 in the tourist district of Monastir (east), we see a bloody dog lying on the road near a pool of dried blood. The author of the excerpts says: “In Tunisia, we start our day with blood, with killed dogs (…) This is what promoting tourism is: killing stray dogs in front of the Ribat of Monastir… They shoot it in front of children… Nobody wanted to come there. [chienne] help on the spot…”
“The show made me sick. They even killed puppies”
Khadija, a British national volunteering with stray animals, has lived in the center of Hammamet (north-east) for more than two years. On the morning of June 18, she found several street dogs, which she regularly fed, shot and killed by city officials.
She tells :
I didn’t see them shoot, I got home around 2am to find my street littered with dead dogs. At first, I saw a dog on the road, a dog that I adored. She looked like she had been hit by a car. When I got out of the car, residents said to me: “It’s the municipality, there are no more.”
That night, I only saw a few corpses, but I heard that about fifty dogs were killed the same evening, and the municipality is planning several more evenings of slaughter… I couldn’t go looking for more corpses, the sight made me sick. I cried frantically for a few days, I felt numb. They even killed puppies.
“We always end up losing to these barbaric practices”
It was the first time I had witnessed something so distressing. Like many other volunteers, I sterilize and vaccinate as many animals as possible, but it’s never enough. We always end up losing to these barbaric practices. It has to stop one day.
We regularly run out of rabies vaccines for pets, and even when the municipality opens a sterilization center, the premises are rarely open to the public or volunteers. However, many of us would volunteer.
The Tunisian government had however promised in 2020 to break with these slaughter campaigns, regularly practiced by the municipal police in Tunisia and denounced by animal protection associations.
In 2021, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child estimated in a report that the exposure of children to violence against animals is harmful to the best interests of the child, and recommended that Tunisia eliminate these practices.
The Tunisia Animals Voice collective sent a letter to the Tunisian President in December 2021, in which he challenges him on the need to create an animal protection law which would put an end to slaughter and develop the sterilization and vaccination of stray animals. The same collective has launched an online petition with the same objectives, which to date has collected more than 44,000 signatures.
“The solution is simple: feed them, sterilize them and vaccinate them”
Malika is one of the founders of Tunisia Animal Voices, a collective that collects images and testimonies of violence against animals and challenges the Tunisian authorities and associations. She explains :
We are trying to mobilize as many people as possible online against these slaughters. Municipalities often post a dog slaughter notice on Facebook, so this is an opportunity to flood the comment thread with messages that denounce these practices. In 2020, this made the mayor of Tunis react, even if she later reconsidered her anti-slaughter statements.
READ ON THE OBSERVERS >> In Tunisia, a new “barbaric” campaign to slaughter stray dogs
Among the many volunteers of this cause in the field, the veterinarian Dr Soumaya Chouk goes to the municipalities to suggest that they opt for the TNR method (“Trap-Neuter-Release” – Attraper-Stériliser-Relâcher, in French) in order to overcome overcrowding and fight rabies.
The Tunisian state offers rabies vaccines to animals that already have an owner, and excludes stray animals. But then he kills these same animals excluded from care, on the pretext that they are rabid!
If there is a rise in rabies contamination figures, it is the direct fault of government policy.
The solution is simple: feed them, sterilize and vaccinate them.
More and more Tunisian municipalities, such as Sousse, Raoued or Radès, announce that they want to open shelters and sterilize dogs. But they lack financial and medical resources. An Italian-Tunisian association, L’arca Di Noé, proposed in 2021 to the Ministry of the Interior logistical and budgetary support to the governorates wishing to continue this project. Other municipalities, such as those of Djerba, categorically refuse the TNR method due to pressure from residents who prefer a more radical solution to dog overpopulation on the island.