A stray dog may be to thank for saving an abandoned baby in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli on Wednesday. The incident also raises awareness of the larger overlapping crises faced by the country’s population. Lebanon has been experiencing an economic downturn, which has worsened the state of both child and animal welfare throughout the nation.
Dog saves abandoned infant
The dog was spotted carrying a black garbage bag that had been abandoned outside a municipal building in the Al-Tal neighborhood. In doing so, the pooch called attention to what was inside the plastic — a baby girl. According to The National, a person passing by heard the baby’s cries from within the bag. After which, the passerby retrieved the sack from the dog, uncovering the infant. The child was then carried to the Islamic Charity Hospital. The baby — who had abrasions and red bruises across her entire face and body — was then transferred to the Tripoli Government Hospital.
News outlets have been divided as to the baby’s age. While Arab News reports the child was orphaned within hours of her birth, The National states the baby is approximately four months old.
Baby hospitalized, investigation ongoing
Wednesday was the start of the Islamic New Year. As such, many government facilities and public institutions were shuttered in celebration. Despite limited access to sources, multiple media outlets reported the hospital has declared the baby to be in a stable, although serious, condition.
At this time, both the reason for the abandonment and the identity of the perpetrator are still unknown. Accordingly, police are continuing to investigate the incident and are looking for leads.
In the meantime, the baby will continue to recover at the hospital. Many offers for adoption have flooded social media since the news broke. Whether they are serious remains to be seen. If not, the child will likely be placed in an orphanage.
Local journalist has thoughts on area’s stray dogs
Arab News reports that local Tripoli journalist, Ghassan Rifi, weighed in on the disturbing news. Rifi said, “Usually, when someone wants to give up their kids, they place them in front of an orphanage or a police station.” He notes that this incident is so upsetting because “this baby was dumped in an area that is considered very dangerous at night, as a lot of stray dogs can be found.” He continues, adding, “The municipality had previously tried to poison these dogs but animal welfare organizations refused and called for their protection.”
A chilling thought to entertain, Rifi questions the motivations for leaving the infant. He asks, “Is it possible that whoever dumped her wanted to get rid of her by letting the dogs eat her in this area infested with stray dogs, and that she was saved by that man who happened to be there by chance?”
He ultimately concludes what most of us would in the face of such an unthinkable act. Saying, “But in all cases, the dog that dragged her was more humane in the face of the brutality and criminality of the one who threw her.”
Poverty, child abuse, and stray dogs
A deepening economic crisis in Lebanon has left much of the country experiencing poverty. In turn, human rights groups have seen an increase in child abuse and abandonment. A UN Interim Force reported “about 1.8 million children” — or roughly 80 percent — in the country “are now experiencing multidimensional poverty.” Data suggests this is double the number of children undergoing hardship in 2019. As such, more children are at “risk [for] being forced into abuses, such as child labor or child marriage.”
Human Rights Watch reported that many households are going without food, medicine, and heat. Adults are skipping meals to feed their children. A survey by UNICEF uncovered “as many as 70 percent of households borrow money to buy food or purchase it on credit.”
As people are unable to afford basic household staples, more pets have been disregarded. In turn, places like Tripoli have seen an increase in stray dogs. These canines may exhibit more aggressive behavior as a result of not being properly cared for and socialized. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the economic situation, and, resultantly, led to an unchecked population boom amongst stray animals.
Animal welfare in Lebanon
In Lebanon, there are organizations working to ensure the welfare of cats and dogs throughout the country. SPCA International’s Lebanon affiliate is Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA). BETA runs the Trap, Neuter, and Return program, which helps to reduce the stray dog population.
According to Georgetown Law, there does not yet exist a worldwide treaty to govern the protection of animal welfare. In 2019, the UN Convention on Animal Health and Protection (UNCAHP) was introduced. However, it has not yet been adopted.