The dogs of cat city
It’s a stroke of luck for a dog to have a home in Baku. For the most part, Azerbaijanis are not inclined to keep domestic animals, especially dogs, because of housewives’ reverential attitude to cleanliness. Unlike cats, which shouldn’t be treated badly as prescribed by prophet Muhammad, a dog is less fortunate in this sense, since Islam has unequivocally declared it an impure animal.
It certainly doesn’t imply that dogs are avoided like the ‘plague’ – Azerbaijani Islam is far from being so radical. Some dog-lovers with Dobermans or lapdogs on leashes can be found in Baku. There are guard and stray dogs too. There is the Kennel Union, and international dog shows are held annually. However, historically, people are more likely to be afraid of stray dogs rather than feel compassion for them.
Sometimes it seems that cats have captured the city center, pushing dogs back to the outskirts where they form rather dangerous packs. From time to time, this issue stirs up heated debates on Facebook’s Baku segment: what should be done with those virtually wild animals? Should they be killed or placed in specially built dog shelters?
In early 2010, the so-called ‘dog box’ (dog control service) started dealing with the stray dog problem. They were killing the dogs, obviously ‘crossing the line’ – for example, dogs were killed in yards, right in front of children. This caused a vigorous reaction from animal defenders: after social media debates and outraged publications in the press, the government finally brought the issue under control. The Mass killing of dogs was stopped; the Heydar Aliyev Foundation provided funds for construction of a shelter and IACC homeless animal rescue center (opened in May this year). There are also some other shelters operating through volunteer donations, such as ‘Bars’ and ‘the Little Prince’. That’s the place you can turn to if you need a hirsute fellow, no matter what breed it is.