Observers

For the past few weeks, authorities in three seaside resorts in Morocco have been slaughtering stray dogs. With photos and videos as proof, local residents have been denouncing a massacre they say was organised ahead of a visit from a FIFA commission.

Since the night of April 5th, authorities have slaughtered about 30 dogs in Tamraght, Taghazout and Aourir, three popular seaside resorts near Agadir, in southwestern Morocco.
 

“We walked by a dumpster filled with dead dogs”

Emma B. (not her real name), has been living in the village of Taghazout for the past five years. On the night of April 7, she woke up to gunshots.
 
At 1:20am, I got a message on Facebook from a friend who said he had heard gunshots in front of his house. I went over. When I got close to his home, near Panorama beach [Editor’s note: located at the entrance to the village], I saw men in uniform. They were hunters, accompanied by gendarmes and the city’s traditional leaders. One of the hunters shot a sleeping dog. The dog belonged to the guard of the parking lot, who was very well-known by locals.The man then started going after stray dogs. It seemed like the hunters were enjoying killing these animals. They were laughing and smiling."


Our Observer filmed the video of stray dogs being killed in Taghazout on April 7, 2018.

Our Observer filmed the video of stray dogs being killed in Taghazout on April 7, 2018.
 
Then, we went to Tamraght, where we walked by a dumpster full of dead dogs. The dogs all had ear tags showing that they had been vaccinated as part of a local campaign."

The hunters drove this pick-up and parked it in Taghazout on April 9, 2018. Our Observer took this picture.
 

The stray dog on the left escaped the slaughter. (Photo by our Observer)

This stray dog has a bullet wound to the ear. The eartag shows that he had been vaccinated. (Photo by our Observer)

 

“With the help of the gendarmes, the hunters took my phone"

Chadi Y. (not his real name) also saw the shootings in Taghazout. When he tried to film what was going on, a local gendarme confiscated his phone.
 
Along with a few other locals, we tried to protect the other dogs. I wanted to speak up to the hunters and stop them. A gendarme told me to step aside. I wanted to follow them and secretly film what was happening. The hunters were parading down the streets with their guns. But after a few minutes, a gendarme saw me. The hunters pinned me to the ground and took my phone. With the help of the gendarmes, they deleted all the photos that I had taken. They only gave me my phone back as they were leaving. They told me that I didn’t have a say in the matter because the prefect had ordered it.”

 

“The authorities don’t want people to know about this dog hunt”

After April 7, several residents organised themselves on Facebook to follow the hunters, protect the remaining dogs and put pressure on the authorities. Emma B. was involved from the start.
 
We created a Facebook group made up of 70 people so that we could talk about what was going on and share information. Agadir is a tourist town, a beach resort, so the authorities don’t want people to know about this dog hunt.

For a week, we saw the same group patrolling: a pick-up, about 20 hunters, the traditional leaders and police van. They go step by step. The hunters kill dozens of dogs. Then the police and other city workers clean up after them. When we tried to intervene a second time, they pushed us aside and threatened to arrest us for being drunk in public.” [Editor’s note: In Morocco, someone who is found to be drunk in the street can be thrown in prison for six months and fined. During protests, security forces often use this threat to get demonstrators to stand down.]


Neighbourhood groups mobilised

Yara B. (not her real name), lives in Tamraght. For a few years, she has been working with other residents to help stray dogs. She says that the authorities didn’t respect an agreement signed in November 2016 between local associations and traditional leaders in Agadir that was supposed to protect stray dogs. Associations promised to vaccinate stray dogs and, in exchange, authorities agreed not to kill them. By that agreement, dogs with ear tags indicating that they had been vaccinated should have been spared.

When interviewed by Moroccan media “La Dépêche", a member of the city clean-up department in Agadir declared that people had been giving “false statements” and that the dogs had not been killed but “captured to be sterilised, as is done on a daily basis".

This isn’t the first time that Morocco has been shaken by a scandal involving the killing of dogs. In 2016, a seven-minute video showed local authorities killing dogs in Ksar El Kébir, in northern Morocco.


"It’s more ‘clean’ to host a competition without stray dogs”

According to some residents, the reason behind this cull was the visit from a FIFA commission to Agadir set on April 17 and 18. Morocco is in the running to host the 2026 World Cup, in competition with Mexico, the United States and Canada. The commission was supposed to determine if Morocco is capable of hosting such a competition.

That’s what Amira O. (not her real name) thinks. She’s a shopkeeper in Taghazout.
During each big sporting event, Moroccan cities try to show off an exemplary image. Morocco is competing against Mexico to welcome the 2026 World Cup. So they go after the dogs. And if it is not the dogs, it’s the beggars. They want to clean up the region because it’s ”cleaner” to host a competition without stray dogs!

An online petition called “End the massacre of stray dogs”, which was launched on April 9, has already garnered more than 14,000 signatures.

The prefecture in the region of Souss-Massa didn’t respond to our requests for an interview. If they choose to respond to our questions, then we will publish their response.
Article written with
Kenza Safi-Eddine

Kenza Safi-Eddine , Journaliste