WARNING, READERS MAY FIND SOME IMAGES SHOCKING
The France 24 Observers team has chosen to share only screen grabs from a video sent to us a that shows a group of young men clubbing a dog, which is lying on the ground, inert.
“The thieves say that it’s becoming more difficult to find dogs”
The young people in the video weren’t very comfortable with the idea of being filmed. They admitted to me that they stole the dog from its owner, who lives in the 1st arrondissement [Editor’s note: a neighbourhood in the centre of the capital].
Then, they brought the dog to a neighbourhood in the 6th arrondissement [Editor’s note: a district in the south of Bangui] where they killed it and cut it into pieces.
They told me that it is becoming more difficult to find dogs, which provide a popular and cheap source of meat. I took pictures of them cooking the meat and selling it by the side of the road. They were selling each piece of flesh for about 100 CFA francs (equivalent to about 15 euro cents.)
While this case might seem shocking, it is happening with increased regularity. Over the past six months, numerous Observers from the Central African Republic contacted us with information about stolen dogs. A dog owner living in the 2nd arrondissement in Bangui, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity, told us that he had been harassed by people wanting his dog for its meat for the past few months.
Young people told us that our dog seemed to be in good health and that he was robust and that they thought he’d make for succulent meat. They never offered us money for him. [Editor’s note: according to our Observers, people usually pay about 10,000 CFA francs for a dog, which is equivalent to about 15 euros]. They say that dog meat is extremely popular right now and in high demand so they are looking for it more than usual.
We refused firmly because, for us, our dog is a member of the family. But we are very scared because, a week ago, another dog was killed in the neighbourhood. Since then, we don’t let our dog out alone. We got out with him at night and, during the day, we tie him up where we can see him.
Other people told us that, when their dog died, they sold it to people who then went on to resell the meat.
The France 24 Observers team spoke with Bienvenu Zokoué, who is the director of operations of the Office Central de Repression du Banditisme (OCRB), which was set up to address banditry in Bangui.
Recently, we’ve received a couple of complaints from people who claim their dogs have been stolen. But there could be many more cases because many people report this kind of crime to local traditional leaders and we don’t always hear about it.
People from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo who live in Central African Republic are the main consumers of the dog meat sold in the country. It features among their culinary traditions. There are also several Central African communities in the regions of Lobaye and M’baiki [Editor’s note: Both located to the south of Bangui] who traditionally eat dog meat.
In Bangui, this meat is most popular in the 6th arrondissement, located in the south of the capital. We’ve also heard of people there hunting down domestic cats and selling their meat. This practice is against the law -- according to the Central African penal code, the punishment for stealing an animal is up to five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 CFA francs.
"The people hunting and killing dogs are taking major risks for their health”
Before the crisis in the Central African Republic, there were farms where people raised dogs for slaughter. They sold the meat to restaurants or shopkeepers who cater to the ethnic groups who traditionally eat dog meat. However, as the crisis swept the country and devastated the economy, these breeding centres closed.
Any consumption of dog meat that occurs outside of these formal establishments is a concern for us -- there are obviously no sanitation regulations or health and safety checks. These stolen dogs could have zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be spread between animals and people like rabies -- even if they don’t show any symptoms.
People who eat the meat don’t face as many risks because once the meat is cooked, the disease is no longer active. However, people can become infected if they come in contact with the dogs' bodies or entrails. So the people who hunt these dogs are taking huge risks with their health.
"The dogs that we inspect often test positive for zoonotic diseases"
When contacted by the France 24 Observers team, the head of the laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Bangui, Emmanuel Rivalyn Nakouné Yanndoko, said that both breeders and other, unqualified people regularly slaughter dogs.
Each time we are notified about a case, I ask for a dog’s head to be sent to the laboratory to be analysed and, often, the test for zoonotic disease ends up positive. In this case, we broadcast a message on the radio instructing anyone who had contact with the animal to go to the anti-rabies treatment centre at the Pasteur Institute in Bangui as soon as possible.
To stop the spread of zoonotic illnesses like rabies, the Central African government vaccinated 16,165 dogs in June 2016. However, the ministry of health have identified at least 3,400 dogs whose owners did not bring them in for vaccinations.