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How the Killing of One Stray Shook the Animal Rights Scene in Lebanon

20 December, 2016
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There are only two dog shelters in Lebanon, neither of which is in the north. For months, Nuhad El Sheikh and other animal activists in Lebanon have been attempting to establish a much needed animal shelter in northern Lebanon, but there efforts have been in vain. When Lebanon elected its mayors in May for the first time after several years of having no elections.

El Sheikh took the stray dog problem to the officials.

“Everyone was eager to show that they were doing something,” said El Sheikh, who told the Mina mayor Abdel Qader Alam Al Deen that they have a plan, and that they will handle the problem, imcluding spaying, neutering, and feeding the dogs.  

“We need you to do something and you will take credit for championing the cause. We need a piece of land to build the shelter,” the activists told Alam Al Deen. There are a lot of lands that belong to the municipality that it has no clue what to do with, El Sheikh said. The mayor would have been the first municipal councilor in northern Lebanon, and one of few in the country to stand by animal rights.

“You would be saving me bullets,” came his reply. In Lebanon, Egypt, and many other countries, strays are either shot or poisoned to death in the most inhumane manner.

The day he said yes, Alam Al Deen went ahead and bought bullets, El Sheikh narrated. The shooting continued.

On November 13, a municipality worker dragged a particularly beloved stray dog, and shot her in the head. He then left her on the street.

Luckily someone filmed it, and posted it on Facebook the next day. Outrage broke.

“People went nuts because she was friendly and trusting,” El Sheikh said. Named Fayhaa, the nickname of Tripoli, she became a symbol of sacrifice.

Animal welfare NGOs went to Tripoli to speak to the mayor.

The rage pushed Governor of North Lebanon Ramzi Nahra to issue a statement ordering the municipality to not shoot strays. “In the situation that stray dogs present a danger to residents, they are to be taken care of in available civilized manners,” the statement said.

“He wanted to brush off the negative propaganda,” El Sheikh believes.

Meanwhile, support for the shelter came pouring in, and people were asking how to fund it.

“People went crazy asking us to start [establishing a shelter], saying they will help,” El Sheikh said.  “A lot of people on social media supported the idea and said they would volunteer, and that alone is a good thing in a place where nothing of the sort exists,” she maintained.

The activists found renewed energy to push for the land to be designated for the shelter, and are making moves for crowd funding. They will also establish an NGO in Tripoli and become officially registered.

Tags Lebanon animal rights