Baghdad deploys gunmen to kill dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2010:
BAGHDAD–More than 42,000 of the estimated 1.25 million
stray dogs roaming Baghdad were shot in the 60 days preceding June
11, 2010 according to the London Daily Mail foreign service.
The pace of dog-shooting had apparently increased sixfold
since Sam Dagher of the The New York Times reported in March 2010
that about 10,000 dogs had been shot since December. The shooting,
Dagher said, augmented “a program begun late last year in which the
national Ministry of Agriculture’s veterinary services teamed up with
the municipality, the police, and even the army in some of the
tougher neighborhoods. Mostly the dogs are killed with rotten raw
meat laced with strychnine.” Dagher described a poisoning crew
“being harassed a bit over whether dogs are really Iraq’s biggest
The killing escalated after reported rabies outbreaks in
Baghdad suburbs. Similar culls have followed rabies cases in other
If there are 1.25 million stray dogs in Baghdad, a city of
about seven million people, the shooting and poisoning might kill
about a third of estimated puppy survivorship during the same two
months. The toll might be roughly equal to normal mortality from
other causes–not likely to lastingly reduce the dog population.
However, because dogs run and hide from gunfire, and tend to become
nocturnal when persecuted, the shooting is likely to reduce the
visibility of dogs to much of the public.
“We could consider this the biggest campaign of dog execution
ever,” boasted Baghdad chief veterinarian, Mohammed al-Hilly,
apparently unaware that New York City in the 1960s killed dogs at a
25% faster rate for eight consecutive years without effecting any
drop in dog numbers.
“Al-Hilly claimed the huge amounts of litter that began
heaping up in the capital as violence paralysed public services had
helped to trigger the problem,” the Daily Mail reported. “Al-Hilly
said the cull was the only option, given the numbers of dogs on the
loose,” the Daily Mail continued.
“Culling stray dogs was a nightly routine under Saddam
Hussein, but the rapid deterioration in security after the U.S.
invasion kept the veterinary teams off the streets. Now,
authorities have 20 dedicated teams each consisting of two shooters
and two veterinarians, often accompanied by police patrols on
daytime operations,” the Daily Mail said, adding that the shooting
campaign is costing the Baghdad Governorate Council and mayor’s
office about $35,000.
This would be about equal to the cost of vaccinating the dogs
against rabies instead of shooting them. Mass anti-rabies
vaccination, however, has yet to be attempted in Iraq.
Sterilization surgery is almost unknown.
Formed in 2003 by U.S.-trained veterinarian Farah Murrani,
who helped care for the animals at the Baghdad Zoo after nearby
fighting stopped in May 2003, the Iraq Society for Animal Welfare
recruited U.S. Army vets to teach small-incision, high-speed dog and
cat sterilization. ISAW collapsed within a year, however, after
death threats forced Murrani to leave the country.
Hiring gunmen with few other skills to kill dogs is a
frequent ploy of unstable governments, who seek to create jobs for
factions that might otherwise turn to crime or insurgency.