Stray dog culls have resumed in northern Tunis after an agreement that had been hoped to end the practice broke down in acrimony earlier this year.
Social media users reported hearing shots throughout Wednesday and Thursday nights as municipal police rounded up and fired upon stray dogs in the affluent northern suburb of La Marsa.
While the total number of dogs killed in this latest cull remains unconfirmed, protesters, including vets and members of the Protection des Animaux de Tunis gathered the bodies of a number of slain dogs which they protested behind in the center of the suburb yesterday.
Protesters claimed that the shooting of dogs represents an inhumane practice that causes unnecessary suffering to the animals, adding that the random culling of street dogs does not represent an adequate solution the country’s stray dog problem.
Contacted by Tunisia Live, a representative of La Marsa Municipality, Amira Khamassi confirmed that they had sanctioned the recent cull, albeit reluctantly. According to Khamassi, the Municipality could not afford to undertake a comprehensive sterilization campaign, though a partial campaign had recently been completed in partnership with the local Lions’ Club. Nevertheless, the culling of stray dogs remained a necessary step towards the preservation of the citizens’ health, Khamassi said.
Dr Myriam Bouzouaia, a Marsa-based vet, stressed the importance of raising awareness among animal owners over the role of sterilization. According to Dr. Bouzouaia, a number of Dutch and American organizations who elected to remain anonymous, had previously announced their commitment to finance animal sterilization campaigns in Tunisia. However, agreement between the parties broke down and the scheme was abandoned.
Despite periodic culls, such as that undertaken in Marsa, tens of thousands of Tunisians are still being bitten by potentially rabies carrying stray dogs each year. In 2014, 47,000 instances of attacks by strays were registered with the Ministry of Health.
However, in recent months the treatment of Tunisia’s stray dogs has gone from a fringe issue to one that has become central to many animal rights activists. In April of this year a petition was launched online, which at the time of writing has gathered over 37,000 signatures, demanding a boycott of both Tunisia and Morocco, (which also culls its stray dogs) if animal rights abuses do not come to an end.
Rahma is preparing a master thesis in Anglo-American studies. She is interested in politics and foreign affairs. Since the outbreak of the Tunisian revolution, she volunteered for several Tunisian associations such as ATIDE, Sawty and others. She writes articles about post-revolution Tunisia.