22 June 2010

Stray animals in Tunisia

One of the difficulties about living in Tunisia, is the daily encounters with a large number of stray animals,  mainly dogs and cats which live on the streets in various stages of malnutrition and disease.  If you are fond of animals or if you are sensitive and have a strong moral conscience then these daily encounters can really affect you after a while.  I have rescued and rehomed many kittens over the past eight years even though I am essentially a dog person.  Despite getting personally involved, the problem is so great that one cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stray animals and also feel guilty that one cannot help all of them and helpless at the futility of it all. 

There is a single branch of Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) in Tunis but this branch operates in an autonomous way and does not belong to the wider World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).  This means that the WSPA have no jurisdiction over the SPA in Tunis. 

 I have visited the SPA on several occassions to find out about their work.  Initially, it was because I was the secretary of an animal welfare group we had tried to set up back in 2005 and I went to interview the veterinarian responsible to find out about her work and how we as an animal welfare group could possibly help her.  We persevered for three years to get this group up and running but when efforts to establish an animal welfare group were blocked at a high level then the group disbanded. 

 Later, I made several other visits to the SPA.  In April 2009, I went there to drop off a stray kitten that I had found which had  ringworm and which I had nursed for a month whilst trying to rehome him.  When no-one would take him, I had no other choice but to take him to the SPA and sign him over and pay the sum of 20 dinars thinking that at least he would be looked after there and they might have a better chance of rehoming him than I did.  Then two days later, I went back as I had decided that I would retrieve the kitten and look after him myself only to be told that once an animal has been signed over to the SPA you cannot have it back.  I thought this was an absurd  rule.  I was offering to adopt the same kitten I had taken there only two days previously but my request was denied.  Then the veterinary nurse weakened and said that I could adopt him after all. When I was taken to the two rooms where the cats were housed in several large cages from the floor to the ceiling, there was no sign of the kitten I had dropped off there only two days previously.  The staff tried to fool me by giving me another kitten saying it was the one that I had dropped off but the kitten they were trying to give away bore no resemblance to "my" kitten.  They said that no-one had come to adopt an animal for at least ten days which meant that logically the kitten should have been there and yet it was not.  Then after several more visits and writing two letters of complaint I was told a highly unlikely story that the kitten had been taken to their other branch in Sousse which is in southern Tunisia.  I thought to myself, why would they take a little kitten to another branch 140 km south of the capital Tunis, when there was sufficient room to house it in their branch in Tunis?  I then drew the rather upsetting conclusion that the kitten must have been euthanised even though the veterinary nurse vehemently denied this.  I will post a digital photo of the little kitten as soon as I locate it. 

Meanwhile, I am including a digital photo of a poor stray cat with an open wound close to the back of its head and right ear. 

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