Morocco has 3 million stray dogs. Meet the people who are trying to help them.



“There are hundreds of dogs there,” he says. “They are vaccinated and we still have problems. This is not the solution. It is not good for our cities.

In Tangier, dogs that cannot be released, like sick animals, head to the SFT’s two-acre sanctuary, which is currently home to more than 470 dogs. Since 2017, SFT has also adopted around 60 dogs from families in Europe and the UK (US adoptions ended in July, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suspended importation. dogs from countries considered to be at high risk for rabies.)

Kadaoui focuses on the big picture.

“Adoptions are wonderful, don’t get me wrong,” she says. “But we have 30,000 strayers. The solution is not adoption. The solution is for humans to learn to live in harmony with and care for dogs. (Read how street dog adoption became popular in India.)

To that end, she hopes Tangier will become a model community for coexisting with dogs, a place where citizens report seeing a sick dog or pulling out a bowl of water on a hot day.

The Beldis debate

Kadaoui takes the three Beldis females from his morning race to the California Veterinary Clinic, where veterinarian Lahrech Mohamed Chakib is waiting.

With a calm demeanor that belies his lack of sleep, he jokingly refers to himself and Kadaoui as “fools” for their 24-hour commitment to these animals. When he transports the three dogs from the van to his clinic, he cradles them, as if they were his own children.

In addition to being vaccinated and sterilized, each Beldi who passes through the clinic receives a permanent yellow ear tag with an identification number. Healthy, even-tempered dogs are returned to where they were first found; their labels inform both authorities and the public that they are not a danger to the community. (Read more about stray dogs living in a sanctuary in Costa Rica.)

However, this is not always enough to ensure the safety of animals. In cities across the country, authorities shot and poisoned Beldis in an attempt to reduce the wandering population. The Home Office announced in 2019 that it would stop slaughtering Beldis and instead focus on sterilizing and vaccinating stray animals. The ministry did not respond to National Geographic requests for comment on Beldis and the TNR program.

But since then, videos on social media have shown the dogs continue to be rounded up and shot by authorities and the public. Some dogs are beaten to death.

Over 99% of the Moroccan population is Muslim, and Kadaoui says many of them believe that dogs are unclean. But Kadaoui, who describes herself as a Moroccan Muslim, dismisses the idea as “absolute garbage”.

“The Quran doesn’t say anything negative about dogs,” she said. “No living thing that God created is unclean.”

Most people don’t want Beldis to suffer, including Taoujni, the journalist, who himself has two dogs. But Taoujini, who posts graphic photos of the injuries he says were caused by Beldis on his Facebook page, says dogs are often dangerous. He notes that residents of cities in Morocco have started carrying small stones to throw in case they need to protect themselves, their children or their pets.

Driss Semlali, who runs Malabata Guest House in Tangier, says there needs to be a more balanced approach to managing Beldis, for example moving them to a shrine outside the city. He says street dogs keep his guests from feeling like they can walk around safely, and their incessant barking keeps people from sleeping at night.

Still, removing – let alone euthanizing – the dogs will likely make matters worse, says Terrence Scott, chief technical officer of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, a US-based nonprofit that works to end deaths. humans and animals due to rabies around the world.

Scott says if the vaccinated dogs are removed from an area, new, potentially rabid dogs will simply take control of the territory. This is why TNR in vaccinated animals has been shown to reduce the spread of disease, he says.

“Informally, a vaccinated dog can be considered a soldier in the fight against rabies,” he says. “If a rabid animal bites a vaccinated animal, it is likely that the transmission of rabies will stop there. So really, it protects the rest of the community from rabies. “

Changing perceptions

Although they faced many challenges, Kadaoui and Chakib say they have made significant progress in reducing rabies transmission in Tangier, both by vaccinating animals and educating citizens. They regularly visit schools to teach children strategies for coexisting with street dogs, such as not approaching or provoking animals.

“One of the biggest problems is that Moroccans learn to fear dogs, and dogs think they are in danger when they feel fear,” she says. For example, a dog that barks and runs towards someone may appear aggressive, when in reality it’s just curious, she says.

Many residents of Tangier have become more and more protective of the Beldis. A video went viral last year of a member of the Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie, which is part of the Moroccan armed forces, stopping traffic in the city to save a stray puppy. (Read how people in India are feeding stray dogs during the pandemic.)

“When I started doing this, people thought I was crazy,” Kadaoui says. “Now they say good job and well done and thank you. If we manage to rally the whole community, the battle is won. “


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