Baghdad, Iraq (June 30th, 2010)
Iraq’s chief veterinarian has told news agencies that authorities intend to kill up to 1 million stray dogs in Baghdad alone.
During the rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s authorities sent veterinary teams out to kill stray dogs on a nightly basis. Since the fall of his regime, for several years the lack of security and threat of violence has prevented these teams from patrolling Iraq’s capital Baghdad. During this time, the stray dog population has exploded to the point where almost 1 million stray dogs are thought to be living in the capital alone – a population density that is the equivalent to Washington, D.C., having almost 100,000 stray dogs roaming the streets. Locals are blaming the dogs for an increase in litter and animal waste around the capital’s streets, as well as increase in disease among humans and domestic animals.
Now, as violence on the streets subsides, authorities have begun trying to tackle the over-population problem again. Twenty 4-person teams are now in action every night, consisting of 2 vets and 2 armed marksmen. As dogs are shot or poisoned, they are loaded into tractor trailers in their masses and transported to Baghdad’s refuse tip. This “public service” is costing the mayor’s office 35 million Iraqi dinars ($30,000). The process of reducing the stray dog population to a “manageable” level is expected to take approximately a year.
“We could consider this the biggest campaign of dog execution ever,” Baghdad chief veterinarian Mohammed al-Hilly told Reuters. He said the campaign had so far killed 42,000 dogs since it started two months ago – of which more than half were poisoned. “This can be considered a victory,” he continued.
The local authorities are not the only organization attempting to tackle the stray dog population. “Operation Baghdad Pups” is a program run by the SPCA International, in which U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan befriend local animals as a way to help cope with the emotional hardships they endure every day while deployed in a war zone. The Operation Baghdad Pups program provides veterinary care and coordinates complicated logistics and transportation requirements in order to reunite these beloved pets with their service men and women back in the U.S.
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