A Facebook account, an internet connection, and MAD 500 ($52.10) are all you need to get your hands on one of Morocco’s coveted purebred dogs. But is this enough to ensure a decent life for your new pet?
Rabat – In Europe and North America, the long standing culture of animal companionship has produced laws on breeding, buying, selling, and adopting pets. This culture is still new in Morocco, which leaves most of the country’s pet sales unregulated.
Although the kingdom has its fair share of legitimate pet stores, most purchased pets are acquired through informal pathways.
There are souks throughout the country where shoppers can find almost any animal. Fish, turtles, mice, birds, snakes, skunks, squirrels, and ferrets are available in these unofficial pet plazas. And, of course, the quintessential purebred dogs.
In a city overflowing with scorned strays, the throngs of people gushing over the pricey purebred puppies in Casablanca’s Souk Laayoune is an interesting sight indeed.
Perhaps even more interesting is the digital side of Morocco’s purebred marketplace–the Facebook marketplace, that is.
It’s technically prohibited to sell animals on Facebook, but the social media platform hosts a great deal of Morocco’s purebred dog sales.
Morocco’s most popular dog breeds are the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute. There are several Facebook groups created with the specific purpose of buying, selling, and breeding these dogs.
In addition to buying and selling puppies, members of these groups can also find a mate to breed their adult dogs. The two dog owners–some of whom are children–then collaborate to sell the puppies and share the profits.
On average, about 20 dogs are listed for sale daily in these types of groups, including at least two new litters of puppies. However, most advertised dogs are between six months and one year old.
Why are people reselling their dogs?
The amount of young adult dogs listed for sale may be surprising, but there are a variety of reasons people may look to rehome their Huskies. Allergies, moving, or a lack of financial resources are perfectly sound reasons to rehome a pet. What seems more common, however, is unpreparedness.
For *Ayoub, 30, having a dog is like having a business. He paid MAD 3000 for his adult Husky and later sold him for double the price.
The police officer bought the dog on a whim from a coworker who could no longer afford to keep it. He had no idea what he was getting into, but said he was excited to have a cute dog to show off. He never researched the specific needs of Siberian Huskies.
Ayoub still lives with his parents, who did not like the Husky at all. Because he was unsterilized, the dog frequently marked his territory with urine, and Ayoub’s mother was constantly cleaning up after him.
The dog, named Rocco, was never allowed inside the apartment. Ayoub, who works 14 hours a day, kept Rocco in a small room on the roof of the building, where he constantly howled.
After six months, Ayoub was fed up with him.
Despite only feeding Rocco rice and never taking him to a vet, Ayoub claimed he could no longer afford to keep him. In reality, his neighbors had been complaining about the dog’s nightly howling, and he, too, was getting annoyed with Rocco’s behavior. Ayoub sold the dog on Facebook for MAD 6000.
The dangers of unauthorized pet sales
Buying a pet off the street or from the souk comes with its fair share of risks. The animal could be sick, carrying diseases, malnourished, anti-social, or aggressive. Buying a pet online also has these risks–in addition to potential danger.
“Beware of those who put animals up for adoption,” one 24-year-old woman warned in a Facebook post.
She had agreed to adopt a German Shepherd from a man in Casablanca and planned to meet him near Acima, a large supermarket. He did not arrive at the scheduled meeting time, but since she had traveled all the way from Sale, she decided to wait. Around 9:30 pm, when the area was nearly empty, he finally messaged her on WhatsApp and told her that he was just across the street.
Before crossing to meet him, she excitedly looked around for her new furry companion.
“I noticed two guys on a motorcycle. One of them was texting at the same time I was talking to this person, and he was even looking in the direction of Acima as if to look for someone,” she wrote.
She quickly realized that there was no dog with these men who were waiting for her. She ran and filed a complaint, and the man did not contact her again.
Online pet sales are not inherently dangerous, but without any third-party monitoring and regulation, these endeavors can be risky, especially to vulnerable populations such as women and children. Unverifiable profiles and photos put both buyers and sellers at risk–especially amid an ongoing crisis of purebred theft.
Morocco’s rooftop breeders
Breeding Business defines backyard breeding as “an unethical and amateur form of dog breeding generally performed at home with limited skill or training. A backyard breeder is a breeder in which profits gained from breeding are the main objective. Often done at the expense of the dog’s health, hygiene, and care.”
In Morocco, this practice occurs on rooftops.
*Anas is one of Morocco’s many rooftop breeders. He breeds his female Siberian Husky with his friend’s male Malamute, and advertises the puppies in various Facebook groups. The two friends split the profits.
He keeps the puppies in a cage with their mother on the roof of his apartment building. At just five weeks old, he claims they are ready to be weaned and moved to new homes. His prices are MAD 1600 for female puppies and MAD 1800 for male puppies.
One prospective buyer expressed his interest in the puppies, but explained that he was inexperienced in handling dogs.
“You should have a balcony where you can keep it,” Anas advised. “If you’re working the whole day, just leave a box where it can poop and pee.”
The buyer hesitated. “I’m not sure if I know how to take care of it,” he said.
“They’re really cute,” Anas responded, offering no more words of wisdom.
According to the American Kennel Club, responsible breeders sell puppies when they are between seven and twelve weeks old to ensure they are properly weaned, socialized, and healthy.
A responsible breeder “is also likely to ask questions of you and what kind of puppy you are looking for, what environment you live in, and other questions to help decide that you will be a responsible pet owner,” writes one expert on an informational website for Husky owners.
“Beware of any breeder that encourages you to rush your decision without checking you out.”
Introducing laws on dog breeding would significantly increase the living conditions of purebreds in Morocco, if they are adhered to.
Such regulations include requiring breeders to have a government-issued license to breed and outlining satisfactory living conditions for the dogs being born and bred.
Successfully implementing and enforcing these measures, among others, would reduce incentives for backyard breeding and push irresponsible breeders out of the market.
Responsible breeding will also increase the value of puppies. This will limit the pool of buyers to those who are serious about raising and caring for a dog, and have the resources needed to effectively do so.
Contrary to popular opinion, the issue of animal welfare in Morocco not limited to the country’s strays–the unregulated sale of companion animals must also be seriously addressed.
Morocco is struggling to adjust to its emergent culture of dog ownership. Most living spaces are not made to accommodate large dogs, food is expensive, sick and injured pets are routinely abandoned by owners who can’t afford veterinary care, and there is a general ignorance of the time and resources needed to properly care for dogs.
Animal welfare laws are a step in the right direction, but laws don’t always inspire social change—or ameliorate the economic pitfalls that limit the proper care of animals. Education is the key here: until more Moroccans become acquainted with the inherent rights and needs of all animals, many strays and pets will be deprived of the lives they deserve.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.