BEIRUT: Anger and sadness after several dogs were poisoned in the northern Lebanese town of Cheka on Monday.
A resident, 52-year-old Maurice Boulos, was walking his eight-year-old dog Wind one evening when the animal ate a poisoned chicken left on the street. Within half an hour the wind died down.
Boulos said a local veterinarian confirmed the dog died of poisoning. Finding the cause, Boulos rushed to stop other dogs on the street from eating the contaminated chicken. He said he managed to get to the vet in time to save two of the dogs, but several other dogs died.
Police launched an investigation after Boulos asked to check nearby cameras for poisoning the dogs.
An animal rights activist told Arab News that lanate, a substance banned in Lebanon but readily available, is being used by dog poisoners.
The development comes as authorities in Tripoli investigate the case of a stray dog that rescued a baby left to die in a garbage can.
A passer-by heard the newborn baby crying from inside and saw the dog walking with the bag.
The baby, who was only a few hours old, was taken to a hospital in Tripoli for treatment.
The scene stirred Lebanese public opinion and social media users hailed the dog as a hero.
Animal rights activist Ghina Nahfawi told Arab News: “It turned out to be a female dog that was dragging the newborn baby to the place where the eight puppies were laid.
“The dog did not grab the bag, but instead let the person who approached him take it without attacking him.”
Cases of abandoned and ill-treated dogs have increased in Lebanon in recent years. Roger Akavi, head of the PAW charity, said the reasons go beyond the country’s economic situation, adding that many Lebanese people “don’t know how to handle a dog”.
There have been several incidents of dogs being shot, poisoned, or burned, with people bragging about their crimes on social media and many people being arrested.
Akavi said the punishment for mistreatment of dogs in Lebanon is not severe enough.
“We know that some of the convicts were released after presenting a medical certificate that they were insane … for example,” he told Arab News.
Baalbek-Hermal governor Bashir Kheder recently declared that the legal punishment for the crime of killing animals is insufficient.
He said the judiciary should compel dog-killers to undergo psychiatric treatment and work in a shelter for stray dogs during the summer holidays with the aim of rehabilitating them under the strict supervision of volunteers.
Akavi said the process of educating the public on how to be kind to animals needs to address the younger generation because older people have preconceived ideas that are difficult to change.
He suggested that microchipping of dogs be made mandatory “so dog owners can take responsibility” and added that stray dogs “should be sterilized, vaccinated and put back on the streets with tags like they do in Istanbul”.
“Also, municipalities should secure shelters to avoid losing control of stray dogs.”
Nahfawi and Akavi acknowledged that there are serious problems with unlicensed pet shops in Lebanon, where some animals are bred in their homes and then sold on the street.
Nahfawi said: “We, as activists, are checking pet shops and trying to make sure the animals are safe and well cared for.
“However, this requires the efforts of the state, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment.”
Nahfawi estimates the number of stray dogs in Lebanon to be around 55,000, while there are no statistics on the number of domestic dogs.
“Since the beginning of the economic crisis in Lebanon, we have started to see pet dogs being abandoned and dumped on the streets of Beirut and other cities,” she said.
Many do not know how to handle these animals in the absence of animal welfare culture, she added.