Stray dogs ‘massacred with poison darts’ as Morocco tries to impress Fifa before World Cup bid

Fifa logo - Arnd Wiegman
Fifa logo - Arnd Wiegman

Municipal workers in Tangier have killed hundreds of stray dogs ahead of a visit by Fifa officials to assess Morocco’s World Cup bid, according to animal welfare advocates.

The cull has taken place despite a government policy against killing street dogs and has even targeted tagged animals that have been previously vaccinated and neutered.

Sally Kadaoui, the founder of the SFT Animal Sanctuary in Tangier, said the city was aiming to clean up the streets to impress visiting Fifa officials.

“Members of the local authorities say the order comes from the governor, that all dogs need to be removed,” she said.

“We were given very short notice to remove tagged dogs from the posh areas and the areas around the stadium where Fifa will be.”

Morocco is eager to impress after Fifa awarded the North African nation with hosting rights for the Club World Cup, which opened on Wednesday. It is seen as a trial event by Fifa officials to assess if the country could potential pull off a World Cup.

Hosting the football tournament is a national priority for the Moroccan government, which is hoping that its bid for the 2030 event will be successful after failing in an unprecedented five attempts to win hosting rights.

Tagged dogs killed

The mayor of Tangier previously reached an agreement with the SFT Animal Sanctuary to sterilise and vaccinate stray dogs in the city, said Ms Kadoui.

She said that since 2016 the shelter has vaccinated, neutered and tagged more than 3,500 of an estimated 30,000 street dogs in Tangier as part of Project Hayat - meaning "life" in Arabic - which aims to make it the first rabies-free city in Africa.

“Three of my tagged dogs were killed,” she said. “They have killed hundreds of dogs because of Fifa’s visit.”

Video footage showed a municipal worker stabbing one animal with a poison dart. Other dogs have been shot and grievously wounded, Ms Kadoui said, or suffered horribly after being poisoned.

She urged football’s governing body not to turn a blind eye to the incident. “Fifa needs to act,” she said. “They have a duty of care to say they refuse to go to countries that do such atrocities.”

A Fifa spokesman said: “Fifa unequivocally condemn any mistreatment or abuse of animals.”

The office of the governor of Tangiers and the Moroccan government was contacted for comment.

Controversial issue

The issue of street dogs has long been a controversial issue in Morocco, which has an estimated three million stray canines.

In Nov 2019, the Moroccan government said it would no longer kill dogs following years of criticism of local authorities for shooting and poisoning stray animals. It instead announced a nationwide scheme to trap, neuter, vaccinate and release stray dogs.

Last November, a Moroccan court fined the governor of Nador province 6,000 MAD (£478) for killing stray dogs, in the first conviction of its kind, with the judge describing killing the animals as "uncivilised".

Risk of rabies

But some Moroccan MPs remain concerned at the number of stray dogs and last May called on the government to take stricter measures, citing attacks on children and the risk of rabies, which kills an estimated 80 Moroccans annually.

“The issue is a huge source of anxiety in roads and alleyways, particularly in more traditional neighbourhoods,” said MP Mohamed Raggani in remarks reported by Morocco World News. “It brings a lot of fear into citizens, regardless of their status or age, especially children going to school early in the morning.”

Abdelouafi Laftit, the interior minister, said his department has allocated MAD 70 million (£5.5 million) in recent years to address the issue of stray dogs.

Advocacy group World Animal Protection ranks Morocco as a “very poor performer” under its Animal Protection Index.