Lebanon has tens of thousands of dogs roaming the streets, but the number has only increased since the coronavirus pandemic. As people started to lose their jobs and fear started to overcome reason, more people abandoned their dogs on the street.
Prior to the first case of the novel coronavirus in the country, the economy was already taking a hit. In addition, the price of dog food increased and people were struggling to afford the food for their dogs. In February, the first coronavirus case was reported and more people lost their jobs.
At the time of writing, Lebanon had 582 reported cases and 19 deaths. The pandemic has people scared and to make matters worse, a local network broadcasted a false report that said dogs could pass the coronavirus to humans.
The combination of loss of income and misinformation led many people to abandon their pets on the streets. Rescue groups and a man known as “Uncle” Mahmoud, who has been rescuing stray dogs for decades, are doing their best to save as many as possible and inform the public that pets cannot give their humans coronavirus.
Uncle Mahmoud is devastated at the complete disregard for the dogs’ lives. He told Asia Times that he is helping as many as he can and said, “There’s at least 100 dogs here, look around.”
Zaynab Razzouk who runs the animal protection NGO Carma said, “Daily we find new dogs – house dogs, not strays – on the streets. Most of them even have collars.” The shelter is at capacity but they still try to take in unwanted pets.
“We’re getting more than 100 requests per week. People who are just contacting us saying, ‘I can no longer afford to take care of my animal. Can you find me an adopter? Or I have to throw it in the street.'”, said Jason Mier, executive director of Animals Lebanon.
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While pet dumping was common practice in the country before the pandemic, some residents panicked after the false report and poisoned their dogs before tossing them out. A woman living in Mount Lebanon poisoned her two dogs with a common pesticide, methomyl, before dumping them on the street. A graphic video showed the dogs convulsing and foaming at the mouth on the street.
Paola Rebeiz, animal rights activist, told MailOnline regarding the false report, “It led to murders and abandonments galore. So far it looks just like people are doing this, but we are hearing that municipalities are also rounding up strays to kill them.”
The network that aired the misinformation said it was a spelling error and immediately removed the report from their site. In addition, the following day they retracted the report “stating that the Head of the Veterinary Syndicate confirmed that animals do not transmit the virus.”
However, the ramifications of the misinformation can’t be undone. Rescue groups are doing their best to ease the minds of residents and keep them from abandoning or harming their pets. Uncle Mahmoud said he is living proof that animals cannot give the virus to humans. “I have about 100 dogs, there’s chickens, cats and whatever else. And nothing happened to me,” he said.
Dogs are stress relievers and make great quarantine buddies. The loyal companions do not ask for much in return, just a roof over their heads, food in their bowls, and unconditional love.
Lebanese rescues will continue to save as many homeless pets as possible and asks people to step up to adopt. You do not have to go through this uncertain time alone…adopt a dog!
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