Lebanon’s economic crisis leaves pets homeless

A large number of Lebanese animal rights activists who use social media platforms to express their frustration say that Lebanon’s cats and dogs “are not doing well at all”. The activists say that the situation “has become unbearable, and that there is no way to help them except by expelling them from a country plagued by economic, political and humanitarian difficulties, via the competent international associations”.

Animal rights activist Ghina Nahwafi said: “Before the revolution of October 17, 2019 and before the Lebanese people started to struggle with the economic crisis, hunger and unemployment, animal rights were already suffering. There were a lot of stray cats and dogs, and even the municipalities concerned did not play their part, unlike the municipalities in developed countries. They did not castrate the males or sterilize the females to prevent reproduction, causing a crisis in the streets and neighborhoods where these animals live. Most animals are hit by cars, tortured or suffer from malnutrition, food poisoning and contagious diseases.

On the issue of the slaughter of stray animals, in 2017, members of the medical detachment of the commune of Ghobeiry in the south of Beirut killed stray dogs with poison under the pretext of complaints from the population and to preserve the safety of citizens . .

“Killing animals on the streets is still common and such incidents do occur from time to time, especially with the increase in the number of pets being thrown out of homes,” Nahwafi said.

We tried to contact the officials of some municipalities that had previously taken action against dangerous animals, but they all escaped the answer, and some of them claimed that they were busy with meetings or that they were had no new data. We also contacted the municipality of Tripoli (northern Lebanon). The mayor told Al-Manar channel months ago that he was forced to go back to the traditional way of disposing of dogs, but he apologized after those opposed to his decision. expressed resentment, and said he was waiting for other solutions.

“We don’t have official figures on the number of pets dumped on the streets. Before 2019, it varied between 40,000 and 50,000 dogs. We were getting one or two calls a month to report a case. In 2020, with the onset of COVID-19, we started receiving dozens of calls a day after hundreds of them abandoned their pets for fear of the virus. The number has multiplied in 2021, and we are now receiving around twenty calls reporting cases due to the deterioration of the economic situation and the increase in the costs of food or treatment for pets ”, declared Roger Accaoui , vice president of Perpetual Animal Watch.

He said: “Associations cannot find radical solutions to this phenomenon, and they are helping to save as many pets as possible and provide them with shelter. Priority is given to dogs most likely to be mistreated and killed in the street.

Article 12 of Lebanese law states that “the Ministry of Agriculture shall issue guidelines for the management of stray populations, including acceptable methods of controlling reproduction, capture, observation of rabies. , a reasonable time to allow a meeting with the owner and minimum standards for housing. and disease control measures. Municipalities establish and implement a stray animal management plan in accordance with ministry guidelines.

Accaoui noted that “a project is underway between the association and Lebanese municipalities, but it requires funding of $ 1.6 million to cover the establishment of shelters and the castration of all stray dogs. It would also involve building an emergency center to take care of critical cases. If implemented, it will fix the root cause of the problem. The municipalities have shown their willingness to cooperate, but they do not have a specific budget. We are trying to finance the project from foreign donations.

Article 12 also specifies that the municipalities must regulate the situation of stray dogs, which is the case everywhere in the world, where the municipalities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, would offer land intended to serve as a refuge for animals. The ministry would then provide the necessary vaccines with the help of veterinarians, and the animals are castrated so that they do not reproduce.

Indeed, this law was not enforced, according to activists, who claimed that some of them tried to contact the ministry to obtain food for the domestic dogs in order to prevent their owners from abandoning them. But the activists received no response.

In an attempt to contact relevant figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, including the head of the Animal Resources Department, to discuss solutions with them, the conclusive response was: “The question is beyond my competence. It is the minister’s business.

Gynecologist and animal rights activist Dr Dana Abu Hosn denied the apology: “Rising unemployment, high prices and the continued lack of special food are factors that have contributed to the increase in dropouts. animals. . Most foods are imported and are priced in dollars. In fact, the prices haven’t gone up, but the local currency against the dollar changes every week. A bag of dog food, enough for a month, costs around 400,000 Lebanese pounds (the equivalent of $ 22 or more, depending on the black market rate and due to the volatility of the currency), and the minimum wage is currently $ 70 per month. “

Dr Hosn, who runs a shelter in Hammana (eastern Lebanon) housing 550 dogs, said: “Don’t throw your dogs out on the streets for any reason. There could be solutions to the food problem. You can mix animal feed with some of your food, like boiled vegetables with very small pieces of meat and chicken, but before you add salt and sugar. Then add them to any pet food you have. On the one hand, the dog and cat will eat healthy food, and on the other hand, you will save on buying a bag of food every month, and it will last for three months.

Food security can be solved using simple methods. But the great crisis is linked to the medical care of these animals, whether at home or in the street. Most of the people who abandoned their animals did so not only because of the high cost of their food, but because the animals got sick and they thought it was better to leave them on the streets to face their own. comes out.

Veterinarian and head of the scientific committee of the Lebanese Syndicate, Dr Nedal Hassan mentioned two categories of animal keepers. The former includes those who buy or raise small animals just for fun and then abandon them and throw them away when they grow up. The second category is that of people who deprive themselves of a lot of things just to protect their dogs or cats, and like us, they encounter difficulties – for example, to find the necessary vaccines, either because of their high price, which reaches the 400,000 Lebanese pounds per dog or cat, or because of their lack of availability in the market.

Dr Hassan added: “In the last few days at least 10 Bichon dogs, which are small domestic dogs that do not adapt to life on the streets, have arrived at our clinic. Most were run over by cars and were in critical condition, while others were pregnant. Some had swallowed pieces of plastic after mistaking them for food. These dogs lived in luxurious houses and did not know how to behave on the street. Cats have also been shocked when they are moved from one environment to another and are unable to get their food and can eat poisonous things, not to mention the crush accidents they face.

The running costs “vary between $ 40 and $ 100 or $ 150, depending on their type. Vaccines and male castration cost $ 25. Female sterilization costs around $ 100. The most expensive operations require the attachment of metal rods or limbs for the surviving animal of an accident or crush. It is currently difficult to secure metal rods, limbs and other medical and surgical supplies for animals, ”said Dr Hassan.

According to the doctor, some clinics did not raise their prices and ended up deducting a significant percentage of the profits just to stay open and afloat.

Lebanon faces a critical situation, and the same can be said of everything, including clinics that lack medical supplies and high import prices. Most citizens are no longer able to cover their personal expenses, making it difficult for them to even consider resorting to veterinarians. In fact, a great wave of migration of specialists from Lebanon to other countries is underway.

“Other colleagues are now paying the costs of the operation in installments because the animal keepers are not able to pay them all in one installment. Some doctors and association owners contribute as much as possible to help save innocent animal lives, but the fears and risks only get worse, ”Dr Hassan said.

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