Similar reports of a national sterilization program circulated on Moroccan media outlets this time last year, but inhumane culling methods continued.
Rabat – The Ministry of the Interior is reportedly pursuing a national sterilization campaign as a means to reduce the stray dog population in Morocco, where authorities generally opt for bullets or poison.
Al Ahdath Al Maghribia reported on Wednesday that the ministry drew up a circular detailing the new measures and intends to release it to municipal departments throughout the country.
The interior ministry intends to mobilize a MAD 40 million ($4.4 million) budget for the sterilization program, according to the same source.
News of the interior ministry’s plans for a national sterilization program circulated Moroccan media outlets at this exact time last year. However, the ministry did not confirm the news and reports of local authorities slaughtering stray dogs continued.
Residents of a coastal city near Casablanca, for example, told Morocco World News that municipal authorities exterminated 80 stray dogs only three weeks after local media announced the interior ministry’s plans for a sterilization program.
A week later, in Agadir, the municipal hygiene office rounded up hundreds of stray dogs and locked them at the city’s pound without food, according to local activists. Photos and videos shared with Morocco World News show the starved dogs attacking and eating each other to survive.
Frequent accounts of culling with live ammunition and poisoned food have appeared on Moroccan social media networks since the November 2019 reports that Morocco will no longer kill stray dogs.
Animal welfare activists are thus hesitant to celebrate the recent announcement.
Why Morocco needs a sterilization program
Like all developing countries, Morocco suffers the effects of stray animal overpopulation. Not only are unvaccinated and unsterilized stray cats and dogs public nuisances, they also threaten public health with the transmission of rabies.
Moroccan authorities have attempted for years to reduce the stray dog population through culling.
Killing off strays is an inhumane and ineffective means of population control. It is impossible to kill every single dog and those that live will continue to reproduce. In one year, a female dog can give birth to as many as three litters of seven puppies each. Her surviving female puppies can begin mating as early as six months into their life.
NGOs in the country have long advocated for TNR, or trap-neuter-release, as the only way to reduce the stray dog population in Morocco and protect public health.
The system involves catching stray dogs, neutering them so they cannot reproduce, vaccinating them against rabies and other diseases, and returning them to their territories. The method prevents the reproduction of strays while also building herd immunity against rabies, protecting local human communities.
How TNR protects human lives
Rabies is present on all continents except Antarctica, but the disease is most commonly transmitted to humans in developing countries throughout Asia and Africa. Rabies can be present in both domestic animals and wildlife.
People who contract rabies often die within one or two weeks without immediate treatment.
There are around 59,000 cases of rabies in humans globally each year, according to the World Health Organization.
The Ministry of the Interior reports that 20 to 30 people die each year in Morocco from rabies. Stray dogs are the primary culprit, particularly in rural areas.
Investing in an effective program to reduce the stray dog population in Morocco over time will end needless animal suffering and improve the country’s international image. Above all, it will benefit Moroccans in the long run.