TURKMENABAT, Turkmenistan — Dog catchers in Turkmenabat have been ordered to capture and kill at least seven stray dogs every day, locals say, as authorities in Turkmenistan’s second-largest city continue a brutal campaign of animal cruelty.
There are not many stray dogs or cats left on the streets of Turkmenabat, and those in charge of exterminating them sometimes take pets away from people to fulfill their daily purpose, several dog owners have complained.
In one infamous case, the dog catchers took a dog tied up outside a supermarket while the owner was shopping, residents told RFE/RL.
The authoritarian Central Asian state has long been criticized for systematically slaughtering stray animals using barbaric methods.
In Turkmenabat, a city of some 250,000, every housing company is responsible for hiring people to perform dog and cat culls in their neighborhood.
One such company in the city’s Khimki district was recently listed as the most successful in eradicating stray animals, RFE/RL correspondents reported, citing officials and residents.
But some of the canines caught in Khimki last week turned out to be companion dogs.
Outraged dog owners demanded that the management company return their pets but found they had already been destroyed, locals told RFE/RL.
Residents of Turkmenabat also accuse the dog catchers of using brutal methods to capture animals and keep them in appalling conditions.
A graphic video An alleged dog trap in Turkmenabat shows three animal control officers beating two screaming dogs with a stick before throwing them into the back of a garbage truck.
Another gruesome video — also sent from Turkmenabat — claims to show the corpses of animals in filthy cages in dilapidated, dungeon-like buildings.
Several residents told RFE/RL that everyone personally condemns the way the sweeps are conducted, but they are too afraid to publicly criticize or argue with housing managers because they depend on housing managers to get certificates that allow them to subsidize food. can receive in government stores.
Subsidized food is a lifeline for many people in Turkmenistan, which has been plagued by chronic food shortages and price hikes for at least five years. The certificates indicating the address of each person and the number of people in a household must be updated every month.
Ironically, the last action in Turkmenabat came when the government new law on July 25 that outlaws cruelty to animals.
The law – passed shortly after the Turkmen service of RFE/RL published reports of the country’s cruel ways of dealing with stray animals – prohibits causing injury or other serious harm to dogs or depriving them of food, water, sleep, rest. or exercise.
It also prohibits the use of methods that cause dogs “unnecessary suffering in catching or controlling the number” of stray animals.
Activists called the law “hypocritical” given the practice, saying it is unlikely that Turkmen authorities will comply with it anytime soon.
Turkmenistan has been criticized for its longstanding practice of exterminating dogs and cats by poisoning, beating, starving or killing them by refusing to water them.
Municipal authorities often bribe local teens to give poisoned sausages or bread to stray dogs and cats to kill, animal rights defenders said.
Dog catchers regularly beat stray animals to the brink of death on the street.
In an incident in Ashgabat, eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that an animal control officer had seen a dog and her puppies beat with a rod in front of children at a kindergarten.
Authorities have never publicly responded to widespread criticism of the country’s cruelty to dogs and cats in their country.
The desert nation is proud of their native breed of dog, the Alabai, who are called “wolfbreakers” for their ferocity and are officially listed as part of Turkmenistan’s national heritage.
Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhammedov and his predecessor (and father), Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, have often been photographed with dogs and horses.
The former president has dedicated a book to Alabais and has declared the last Sunday of April as Alabai Day in honor of the celebrated breed.
There is also a 6 meter high gold statue of an Alabai – Turkmenistan’s sweetest dog – in a central square in the capital Ashgabat.
Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL Turkmen Service correspondents in Turkmenistan.