After the death of a French tourist in Dakhla, attacked by stray dogs, the question of the proliferation of canids in the Maghreb resurfaces.
This Tuesday, in El Argoub, not far from Dakhla, a 44-year-old tourist was attacked by a pack of stray dogs. Bitten several times, the forties died. A drama that feeds the pages of various facts, especially in France, country of origin of the deceased tourist.
More than a simple news story, this drama represents above all a phenomenon that the Moroccan authorities and, more generally, the Maghreb authorities have difficulty in stemming. Because in the streets of Moroccan, Algerian or Tunisian municipalities, it is not uncommon to come across packs of stray dogs. In April, the media reported the cases of a schoolgirl who died after an attack by stray dogs in Tunisia or a young boy killed by a pack in Algeria.
Sterilizations to stem proliferation
And the policies regarding these animals differ from country to country. According to the newspaper Al Akhbar, the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, which formerly slaughtered stray dogs, recently put an end to this practice considered barbaric by many animal protection associations. Instead of slaughter, the Moroccan authorities therefore carry out sterilizations: still according to Al Akhbar, more than 140 dogs are sterilized each year.
A policy that could be effective in the long term. In the meantime, Moroccan municipalities are confronted with this phenomenon without being able to find a solution. Consequence: each year, between 20 and 30 deaths are recorded in the kingdom after attacks by stray dogs.
In addition to bites, it is diseases that cause death. And in Morocco, the Ministry of Health has decided to act by allocating a budget of 40 million dirhams to vaccination campaigns against rabies and the development of treatments for citizens who are victims of bites.
Vaccinations and slaughter
In Tunis, the phenomenon is no different. In 2021, five people are believed to have died after being bitten by stray dogs carrying rabies. According to the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, in Greater Tunis alone, more than 55% of stray dogs are contaminated.
As in Morocco, Tunisia had a radical policy to fight against the phenomenon: massive slaughter campaigns were organized to stem the proliferation of animals. Recently, vaccination programs have started, but mostly aimed at dog owners. The objective is to vaccinate 70 to 80% of dogs in Tunis, without however the authorities advancing a timetable. Stray animals are captured and then sterilized, as in the kingdom.
Tunisia has also opened five veterinary centers, which should make it possible to control the canine population and overcome the reproduction of stray dogs.
But in fact, several sources claim that dogs continue to be slaughtered. As reminded Slate, “the (Tunisian) administration nevertheless remains reluctant to communicate on its actions. (…) Procedural reluctance is undoubtedly not unrelated to the latest controversies relating to the actions of the municipality, which in 2020 had relaunched a slaughter campaign, counting among its victims dogs already ringed, before finally banning the practice ” .
Associations to the rescue of the State
Besides vaccination and sterilization policies, aren't there other reasons why stray dogs continue to proliferate? First of all, there are the laws on adoptions of dangerous dogs which are not respected by the citizens. In Tunisia as in Morocco, there are countless owners of pit bulls and other dangerous dogs who then abandon their animal.
In addition to the – very timid – policies of the Tunisian and Moroccan governments, awareness campaigns are needed, according to the associations. That of the Protection of Animals of Tunisia (PAT) believes that it is necessary to put in place "a law obliging owners to mark their dogs so that they can no longer be thrown into the street with impunity". The association also deplores the lack of management centers for stray dogs.
Associations which are, in reality, the work of the State, too busy on other fronts to stem the phenomenon of stray dogs. But the latest deaths once again revive the controversy. And shows the powerlessness of countries to find solutions.