Shelter for Slaughter? 24 Animals Found Beaten to Death at Tunisian Refuge

Published August 1st, 2020 - 05:49 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Highlights
Italian-born Tiziana Gamannossi fed stray dogs by the beach in Djerba, Tunisia.

This is horrific moment for the owner of an animal refuge as he found 24 dogs were killed after three men had tortured and force-fed puppies bleach in Tunisia.

Photographs and videos, taken by Tiziana Gamannossi, show dogs lying in pools of blood after they were beaten to death with sticks on the island of Djerba on Thursday, July 23.

One dog, who was recovering from a car accident, had a nail pushed into its eye during the night of torture. 

Italian-born Tiziana encouraged stray dogs to a beach near her rented home on the island - a popular tourist destination - where they were given food and looked after.

She had 120 dogs before the attack but most ran away when an angry mob armed with 'axes and sticks and weaponry' descended on the sanctuary. 

People in the crowd threatened to kill or rape volunteers if they didn't leave, according to campaigners.

The group of more than 100 people wanted to 'finish the job' of the three men who carried out the overnight attack, Florence Heath, co-founder of Rescue Animal North Africa (RANA), told MailOnline.

Twenty puppies and four dogs were killed. Around 100 survivors were scattered around the shelter and some escaped through an open gate.

Ms Heath said: 'Volunteers came down from Tunis to help the remaining dogs so the villagers thought “hey we’re going to show them we mean business”. 

'The men got arrested the afternoon after the attack but then everyone got up in arms. It brought back a wave of energy.'

The local police station was 'stormed' by protesters and overwhelmed officers were forced to release the suspects - who had boasted about killing the animals online, according to Ms Heath.

She said stray dogs were a 'pest' to some Tunisians and videos of the torture of dogs were often posted online.

'On the flip side we work with amazing Tunisians who are overwhelmed,' she added. 

One angry Tunisian who lived near the dogs told MailOnline the animals were not sterilized and had been left to their own devices on the beach.

She did not want to be named, but said: 'The problems with the dogs has been around for at least two years.

'[Tiziana] takes dogs but she has no shelter, no associations. They do not sterilize or vaccinate. The dogs are left to their own devices. She condemned the locals by putting the dogs on the beach.' 

Tiziana denied the allegations and said all her dogs had been vaccinated. 

The owner of another refuge on the island, who did not want to be named, claimed Tiziana 'hoarded' dogs and accused her of breeding puppies for sale.

He wrote: 'I saw a woman there who is a monster in my eyes. When we arrived, I noticed T yelling at people and even insulting the police.

'She was taken out of the house with police protection and was taken to Houmt Souk, including the van with the dogs.'

He said Tunisians were angry with Tiziana, who he called T, for letting hundreds of dogs roam around the streets without vaccinations, something she denies.

'Tunisians are angry. One can only hope that they realize that not all are like T,' he wrote. 'This is about the dogs, about our work. We have to defend this and give the dogs a voice.'

He told MailOnline: 'It was a massacre, and it was terrible. But this case has a lot of layers, and now we hope the truth can be told.


'She left Djerba with most of her dogs yesterday, but people have found dogs she has left in 3 places here. 4 in Ghizen, 12 in Houmt Souk and at least 6 in Terrabella. Poor dogs.

'She did rescue a lot of dogs, but seldom let anyone adopt a dog. She is a hoarder.' 

'Today we got proof that she was breeding puppies for sale. She left a rottweiler that just had puppies. I am trying to find a solution for them.' 

He claimed Tiziana also kept cats in a nearby empty hotel - but has now left them behind. 

Tiziana told MailOnline: 'We rescued many dogs, of many races and some were pregnant. 

'Our priority is always food, water and vaccinations so sometimes we did not make it on time to sterilize them. One rottweiler made two babies which are mixed.' 

She said she 'refuses any accusation around vaccinations', adding: 'I have all the vaccination and I wrote the name and date. The dogs are free for sure. 

'You can’t treat them like dogs in a closed area. They are free and always in the sea and the sand. They may look dirty but they are happy. My dogs are my family so I refuse any accusations.' 

Tiziana said she is currently working to make sure she is reunited with the dogs left behind in Djerba. 'My priority is my dogs. I didn’t forget any dogs ever,' she said.

On the morning of July 23 Tiziana and her boyfriend arrived at the shelter to find it had been ransacked. The building where sick and nursing dogs were kept was broken into overnight.

There were dead dogs laying across the floor and video taken at the shelter show some lying in pools of blood.

Ms Heath said: 'Some have been beaten with sticks. That’s not unusual for them. 

'Others have another level of horror. Most of the puppies fed with bleach died. Their mothers stayed behind because they didn’t want to leave them and got caught too. 

'There were 12 puppies and a few disabled ones. All the puppies and mums and the dog that was ill were kept inside the building. 

'The ones inside couldn’t get away and were targeted and done for. Some of the others managed to escape.'

Volunteers soon arrived from Tunis to try to take the dogs to safety at a shelter in the capital.

But as the van tried to take 40 dogs away from danger, an angry mob waited outside and threatened the volunteers, Ms Heath said.

The driver had to wait until the next morning, when police could help, to get the dogs away from the shelter and safely to Tunis. 

Tiziana then gathered as many of the remaining dogs as she could and brought them to another property she had temporarily rented. 

'That’s 40 dogs taken to safety in Tunis. The remaining 60 dogs are still in Djerba,' said Ms Heath.

'The dogs ran away when they saw this mob because they’re used to surviving. The lady from the shelter moved out of the shelter because they threatened to kill her too. 

'She collected the dogs where she could find them and took them to a safe house she rented temporarily.'

Last night locals launched another attack on the shelter after finding out where Tiziana had moved, she said. 

'Another dog is dying and a whole bunch were beaten and tortured,' Ms Heath added.

'It’s really heavy. That’s how horrendous it has been. The local police have been completely overrun. They arrested three men and then released them hours later when it turned into a whole village mob.'

A crowd outside the shelter were shouting 'death to dogs and death to foreigners', she said.

Tiziana said the locals were angry because her home's owner had returned and wanted access. She said police agreed she shouldn't be allowed inside while Tiziana was still living there.

'She went to the neighbors and said I want to go to my house. These people are naive and they came in mass,' she told MailOnline.

'We had some boys to protect the dogs. We went to the police. These people are throwing stones and injured one of my smallest dogs.'

Ms Heath's charity RANA helps take dogs from shelters in Tunisia to be rehomed with Brits who sign up to adopt a stray.

She said RANA usually works with a shelter in Tunis but had to help when they saw Tiziana's social media plea for help.

'There’s several ideas for why the attack happened,' she said. 'On the whole it’s a mix of a huge lack of understanding about animals and culturally about dogs. 

'They are seen as vermin. I’ve got a photo of a van that goes around saying we’ll get rid of your rats and your dogs. They’re thought of as a pest.'

Municipality and Police Officers shoot stray dogs to stop overpopulation in the country - where Ms Heath says trap, sterilize, release schemes are non-existent.

After last night's attack two dogs are in intensive care. One of the dogs, which was inside the shelter recovering from being 'rammed' by a car, had a nail impaled in its eye. 

'She was found very recently after being rammed by a car and saved by one of the few nice policemen,' according to Ms Heath.

'She couldn’t move very quickly so they managed to get to her during the first attack. 

'She’s got a nail in her eyes, drag marks and a fractured skull from a beating. She’s in a pretty bad condition. She’s in intensive care and we’re doing everything we can.'

She said the attack was 'shocking but not surprising' because 'it’s not considered a big problem'. 

'There’s a lot of videos of young men torturing animals on Facebook,' she said.

Ms Heath hopes some of the dogs at the shelter in Tunis will be rehomed in Britain to make room for the victims of the attack.

She said: 'We come across people saying why should you help animals abroad when we’ve got animals here. 

'That’s fair but it’s one of those things where there’s no finite number of adoptions. 

'People see these stories and then adopt even if they weren’t thinking of it. It’s not taking away from a British dog.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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