Brutal Dog Massacre in Morocco Blamed on FIFA World Cup Bid

Sally Kadaoui
Sally Kadaoui

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: The videos embedded in this story contain footage many people will find upsetting.

Hundreds of stray dogs are being brutally killed in Tangier in order to impress FIFA officials who are coming to assess Morocco’s World Cup bid this week, animal rights activists have told The Daily Beast.

Campaigners say the animals have been shot or poisoned on the streets of the coastal city found at the juncture of Africa and Europe. Many of the slaughtered dogs were tagged with yellow earmarks to show they have already been neutered and rabies-vaccinated.

“They’re killing our dogs and people’s pets too,” said Sally Kadaoui, founder of SFT Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit that rescues and cares for the city’s homeless animals. “Some of them run off, shot and wounded. I found a dog shot in the leg who was suffering for days with a terrible wound. We had to amputate his leg. They’re trying to clear the streets of strays before FIFA’s February visit. Just today, they’ve killed over 25 of our dogs. These were lovely, friendly dogs who lived near the shops and cafes around the Corniche and everyone fed them. It’s devastating.”

Morocco is hosting the FIFA Club World Cup, a tournament featuring the best club sides from each continent including Real Madrid and the Seattle Sounders. The tournament, which starts on Wednesday, is seen as a test event by FIFA officials ahead of a bid to host the World Cup.

Horrifying footage shows dogs collapsing and convulsing, being tossed, mortally-wounded, into waiting trucks on top of other dead bodies. In one wrenching clip, a government assassin calls a black-and-tan shepherd by her name Rosa. When she runs over to him, wagging her tail excitedly, he stabs her with a poison dart. As she lays dying, her companion, a shy sandy mongrel, runs to her side not knowing why she’s distressed, and nuzzles her nose trying to comfort her.

That same day, Rosa’s daughter Layla, a three-old black shepherd-and-Lab mix pictured above, died painfully and slowly after eating a chunk of poisoned meat. “Her brother Mini Moven refused to eat the meat and survived. Witnesses saw the dog killers dispose of the bodies before we could collect them as evidence,” said Kadaoui.

Kadaoui, alongside an army of volunteers and drivers, has been racing against time collecting tagged dogs and bringing them to the SFT shelter, which is already home to over 600 dogs, cats, donkeys and other creatures. “Some of the locals and tourists have been dropping off animals too. I’ve just rented another house, beside the sanctuary, paid a year’s rent in advance, so we can use it immediately as a safehouse for the dogs.”

One of SFT’s volunteers, Sylvia Garcia, a foreign national from Barcelona who has lived in Tangier for many years, filmed some of the chilling footage while picking up dogs. “Yesterday I arrived a minute too late. The dog exterminator was already there with a box full of poisoned meat,” she said. “When he was taking away a husky being poisoned, he was still breathing. That’s why I shouted in the video, ‘he’s still alive.’ For about 30 seconds the dog is suffering, bleeding from the mouth, and looking to you for help. I saw so many dogs and puppies in the bed of the truck still alive. I managed to grab one and rushed him to the vet.”

Garcia, who shares 11 dogs and two cats with her husband, was heartbroken that she was unable to save these animals. “These monsters go around the souks poisoning cats and kittens too. They also take cats from the city, where they’re being fed and cared for, and dump them in the forest or landfills, where they slowly starve to death. It’s insane. Living here is a nightmare.”

Another stray, Dina, a four-year-old caramel-coloured Beldi, a native breed, who was spared execution after a lawyer and his wife took her into their home during last October’s cull, was slain outside a school. “Everybody loved Dina,” Kadaoui said. “She walked the kids to school and back home every day. Imagine shooting dogs in front of children? A stray bullet even hit a motorcyclist, with many witnesses. I do what I do because I was traumatised like this as a child.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Kadaoui took these pups and their mother back to her sanctuary to avoid being poisoned.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Sally Kadaoui</div>

Kadaoui took these pups and their mother back to her sanctuary to avoid being poisoned.

Sally Kadaoui

Kadaoui, born to a British mother and Moroccan father, grew up in Tangier and “saw the misery on the street, the cats and dogs suffering, the kittens and puppies that I played with being poisoned. I promised myself that one day I’d help Moroccan animals.” In 2012, she left the English city of Cambridge and returned to her hometown in pursuit of her dream to build a sanctuary. “I sold my home and my business. I gave up everything.”

Many street cats and dogs have guardians or whole communities that look after them and SFT provides dried kibble for pets belonging to poor families as well as emergency veterinary services. The systemic slaughter and gruesome scenes of the friendly community animals dying outside apartment buildings, shops and cafes along the touristy Corniche, has outraged locals and animal-rights activists. Many residents who had confrontations with the snipers trying to stop the killings were threatened with violence and arrest.

“I heard the gunshots and saw armed men shooting dogs in broad daylight,” said a resident, who cares for a handful of the neighborhood strays and wished to remain anonymous. “I rushed outside, snatching as many dogs that I could stuff into my small fourth-floor apartment. It’s incredibly barbaric killing cats and dogs like this in the street. It shows Morocco is uncivilized and unfit to host anything, let alone the World Cup.”

At least 30,000 homeless dogs roam the streets of Tangier alone, with an estimated three million in Morocco. Many of them live in dire conditions, scavenging food from the garbage and suffering from road accidents, injuries and illnesses, including mange and, more rarely, rabies.

Morocco conducts routine culling under the guise of controlling rabies. “This is bullshit. You never see a pack of dogs with rabies,” said Kadoui, “The governor, who issues these orders, is an idiot. I’ve had stupid questions from him like, ‘Why do we see dogs and in Europe you don’t see street dogs.’ Nevermind that we’re a desperately poor third-world country, where 60 percent of the population is illiterate and can’t write or read, and sterilization is very expensive. It’s mainly lack of education. Many of the authorities themselves are uneducated.”

In 2017, Kadaoui and her team launched Project Hayat, ‘life’ in Arabic, with the goal of making Tangier the first rabies-free city in Morocco by vaccinating and sterilizing 30,000 dogs by 2025. So far, they’ve vaccinated and released nearly 4,000 animals and homed several thousand in the country and abroad. Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior promised MAD 70 million ($7 million) to support the TNRT (trap-neuter-release-tag) initiative to humanely reduce the city’s stray population.

“Nobody’s seen any of that money and they’re trying to create this fake image,” Kadaoui said, adding that she’d tried to be diplomatic, “But now they’re murdering my rescues. This is war. It’s such a shame because Tangier is magical because of the beautiful dogs, because it’s the door to Africa, because it’s cosmopolitan.”

Later, after being interviewed on national television, Kadaoui posted on SFT’s Instagram that the Wali of Tangier, Mohamed M’hilda, the governor, called to threaten her. “He was furious and wanted me to post an apology that he never gave orders to kill tagged dogs. He asked if I was ready to assume the consequences. I told him that I’m prepared to go to prison to get the truth out there.”

As the bloodshed escalates and national and European media crews are set to arrive, the community is fighting back. The Green Youth Movement, a local environmental group, is suing the city while the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and British actor and activist Peter Egan are getting the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child involved challenging public violence against animals.

“Sadly, it seems common practice for some governments to sanction murders of street animals preceding major sporting events,” said Malcolm Plant, founder of the European Link Coalition, an alliance of international animal-welfare organizations. “Witnessing brutality to other living creatures can desensitize young people and normalize violence. If we emphasize that the UN Committee has made recommendations and the killing stops in Morocco, it will create a powerful precedent.”

Neither the Ministry of the Interior or FIFA press office responded to requests for comment.

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