Group urges humane treatment of stray dogs in Iraq

U.S. Army soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment pray before heading out on patrol in Baqouba, , 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

U.S. Army soldiers from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment pray before heading out on patrol in Baqouba, , 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An animal rights group is urging Iraqi authorities to find better ways to eliminate stray dogs after 200 of them were killed in Baghdad this week by poisoned meat and rifles.

Humane Society International wants to work with Baghdad officials because their methods to curb the stray dog population are "neither humane nor have been found to provide long-term solutions to the overpopulation program," the group said in a letter dated Wednesday.

"There are humane, effective and well-established alternatives available and we are willing to help the city of Baghdad initiate these programs," the Washington-based group said in the letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Baghdad provincial Gov. Hussein al-Tahan and Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., Samir Sumaida'ie.

Baghdad authorities killed more than 200 stray dogs on Sunday, the opening day of a campaign to cull dog packs roaming the capital that was prompted by a spate of fatal attacks on residents. Teams of veterinarians and police officers used poisoned meat and rifles to kill the animals.

In its letter, the group suggests a "holistic approach" to the problem, including surgical spaying and neutering, education on the subject, legislation, dog registration and licensing programs for owned animals, and euthanasia "using humane methods and agents."

Baghdad's provincial council has said the operation aims "to eradicate the diseases transmitted from dogs to human beings."

Thirteen people died in August alone in the capital after being attacked by dogs, according to the council, which is overseeing the campaign.

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