Officials in Baghdad began poisoning & shooting stray dogs on a large scale in April when they finally received funding to do something about the estimated 1.25-1.5 million stray dogs in Baghdad. In three months, the culling teams, made up of vets and police shooters, have killed about 58,000 dogs with plans to kill 1 million total. Residents are warned not to pick up the poisoned meat they’re putting out to kill the dogs. In addition to the danger of accidental human poisoning, there is the risk of poisoning “endangered species such as the Cinereous Vulture of which only 14-20,000 remain.”
Before you condemn Baghdad officials for this horrific slaughter, let me put this into terms to which you can better relate. Depending on the figure you use for the area of Baghdad (78.8 – 283.4 sq. miles) and using the lower estimate of strays (1.25 million), that breaks down to 12-39 stray dogs per city block. Can you even imagine what it would be like to live with anything close to that number of feral dogs—hungry, with parasites, and possibly diseased—running loose around your home? This is a public health issue.
Consider also that there aren’t any animal shelters in Baghdad and even before the war, culling is how officials dealt with stray dogs. Another complicating factor is that basic municipal services like garbage collection have not been restored since the war started in 2003 and trash in the streets is providing a ready food source for the stray dogs, which leads to more dogs surviving and to bigger litters. Some Baghdad streets have actually been blocked off by giant garbage piles.
A lot has to change, because clearly culling alone won’t fix anything. Besides restoring Baghdad to a functioning city, there have to be funds dedicated to animal welfare. It’s also critical that there be a campaign to change Iraqi views on spaying & neutering. From what I understand, it’s considered cruel and unnatural to spay & neuter dogs, even by veterinarians.