BEIRUT: There was anger and grief in the town of Chekka in northern Lebanon on Monday after several dogs were poisoned.
One resident, Maurice Boulos, aged 52, was walking his eight-year-old dog Wind one evening when the animal ate some chicken laced with poison that had been left in the street. Wind was dead within half an hour.
Boulos said a local vet confirmed the dog died of poisoning. Having discovered the cause, Boulos then rushed to prevent other dogs on the street eating the contaminated chicken. He said he was able to get two to the vet in time to save them, but that several other dogs died.
Police began an investigation after Boulos asked them to check cameras in the vicinity of where the dogs were poisoned.
An animal rights activist told Arab News perpetrators of dog poisoning use lannate, which is a banned substance in Lebanon, but readily available.
The development comes as authorities in Tripoli investigate the case of a stray dog that rescued an abandoned baby left to die in a trash bag.
The dog was seen carrying the bag by a passerby who heard the newborn baby’s cries coming from inside.
The bruised infant, who is believed to have only been a few hours old, was taken to hospital for treatment in Tripoli.
The scene shook Lebanese public opinion and social media users have hailed the dog as a hero.
Ghina Nahfawi, an animal rights activist, told Arab News: “It turned out that it was a female dog and it was dragging the newborn baby to the place where it laid its eight puppies.
“The dog did not hold on to the bag but rather gave it up to the person who approached to take it without attacking him.”
Cases of abandoned and mistreated dogs have increased in Lebanon in recent years. Roger Akkawi, head of the PAW charity, said the reasons went beyond the country’s economic situation, adding many Lebanese “don’t know how to deal with a dog.”
There have been numerous incidents of dogs being tortured and killed either by shooting them, poisoning them, or even burning them, with some boasting of their crimes on social media and a number of people arrested.
Akkawi said the punishments for mistreating dogs in Lebanon are not severe enough.
“We know that some of the perpetrators were released after presenting medical certificates that they were insane ... for example,” he told Arab News.
Bashir Khedr, governor of Baalbek-Hermel, announced recently that the legal punishment for the crime of killing animals was insufficient.
He said the judiciary should “compel those who burn dogs to undergo psychological treatment and to work during the summer holidays in a shelter for stray dogs under the strict supervision of volunteers, with the aim of rehabilitating them.”
Akkawi said that the process of educating the public on how to be kind to animals requires addressing younger generations because older people have preconceived ideas that are difficult to change.
He suggested mandatory microchipping of dogs “so that dog owners can bear their responsibility” and added that stray dogs should be “neutered, vaccinated, and returned to the street with tags, as is done in Istanbul.
“Also, shelters should be secured by municipalities to avoid cases of loss of control over stray dogs.”
Nahfawi and Akkawi agreed that there were serious issues over unlicensed pet shops in Lebanon, with some breeding animals in their homes and then selling the animals on the street.
Nahfawi said: “We, as activists, are trying to inspect pet shops and ensure that animals are safe and well taken care of.
“However, it 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 at about 55,000, while there are no statistics on the number of domestic dogs.
“Since the start of the economic crisis in Lebanon, we have begun to see pet dogs that have been abandoned and thrown in the streets of Beirut and other cities,” she said.
Many people do not know how to deal with these animals in the absence of an animal welfare culture, she added.