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IRAQ: Iraq security forces take aim at stray dogs

November 27, 2008 |  9:09 am


Cute, eh?

Not if it grows up to be like many of the stray dogs roaming Baghdad, according to city officials who have launched a campaign to kill the homeless hounds. (The abandoned pooch that's pictured, however, was one adopted by U.S. troops.) Stray dogs, according to authorities, caused the deaths of more than a dozen people in one month alone.

The culling operation, which kicked off last Sunday, was deemed necessary after a spate of vicious attacks by stray animals roaming Iraq's streets. In August, 13 people died after being attacked by stray dogs, said Anam Hamid, head of the environment board on Baghdad's provincial council. His comments were carried in an Associated Press story announcing the dog-elimination campaign, which began in western Baghdad and will eventually move over the Tigris River to the eastern side of the capital.

Straydog "We have decided to take action after receiving complaints of rising attacks on people by packs of dogs and reports that some children are refusing to go to school because they're afraid of being bitten," Hamid said.

It is unclear how long the operation will go on. Under former leader Saddam Hussein, stray-dog culls were conducted annually, but they have not taken place amid the chaos of six years of war. In a city lacking animal shelters and experiencing massive displacement, violence and murders, the number of street dogs has soared. Many are strays or offspring of strays, but others have become homeless after being separated from their owners.

Some lucky ones, like the puppy pictured above, get taken in by sympathetic U.S. soldiers who raise them on their bases and often try to take them home when they redeploy to the United States. But those dogs are not immune from the diseases that Baghdad officials say make the city's street hounds so dangerous. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that an Iraqi dog that had been adopted by U.S. forces and brought to the United States had rabies. The 11-month-old dog had lived the previous seven months on a U.S. base with the soldier but had not been vaccinated. Shortly after arriving in the U.S., it fell ill and had to be euthanized.

Military veterinarians and police are conducting the culling, luring the dogs with poisoned meat and then shooting them. U.S. troops were alerted to the plan to prevent friendly-fire clashes erupting between the dog teams and American soldiers unaware of their intent.

-- Tina Susman in Baghdad

Photo credits: Top photo by Tina Susman / Los Angeles Times; bottom photo of a stray dog that sought shade beneath a car in central Baghdad by Saad Khalaf