Controversy over unprecedented court ruling for dog killer in Lebanon

BEIRUT: In an unprecedented ruling in Lebanon, Mansour El Kahi, an investigative judge, has sentenced a man to 10 days in prison and a fine of $2,670 for torturing dogs.
The sentence, which is subject to appeal, stirred controversy among the public. Some welcomed the decision since Lebanon has recently witnessed reprehensible violations against stray dogs, but others responded with cynicism. One activist on social media said: “(Judicial authorities) overlooked all other criminal cases and hundreds of arrested people and gave consideration to dogs.”
The defendant, Georges Salameh, tortured dogs in 2016, according to witnesses. A statement by Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (BETA) said: “We received a desperate call to stop a man from killing more dogs in Sin el Fil; witnesses saw a man tie up a dog to a street pole and run him over to death.” Salameh was later seen getting back into his car, running over the dog and making sure it was dead before fleeing the scene.
The organization decided to follow up the case. Salameh was caught throwing a dog called Alexa from the second floor of a car park, then rushing to his car to follow her again and try to “viciously beat her and run her over.”
“BETA volunteers were in the area on a daily basis, trying to monitor the situation, catch the abuser in the act and build up a stronger case against him, and the same dog was rescued in the nick of time.”
The organization filed a complaint and followed it up for two years until the sentence was finally announced. It described the sentence as a first step toward justice, and indicated that if the ruling were based on the New Animal Protection and Welfare Law (Law 47) enacted in 2017, the sentence would have resulted in between three months’ and two years’ imprisonment and sanctions that might vary from LBP3 million ($1,990) and LBP 50 million.
Media activist Fares Al-Gemayel had a different opinion. He was the first to comment on the sentencing, refusing to rely on a video of Salameh with the dog in his car which was filmed by the volunteers.
He told Arab News that the incident happened near his sister’s house. The dog was a stray that had terrified people for days, biting the elderly and children, and Salameh decided to drag him with his car to take him away from the neighborhood. He added that Salameh did not mean to abuse the dog.
Al-Gemayel said he had reservations about the sentencing: “People raising pets should know their duties toward others and not abandon their animals in the streets when they no longer want them. They should not annoy others with their dogs and they should know their limits.”
“When matters become clear in terms of rights and duties, it is then that the law applies to everyone,” he noted.
He mentioned a crime “that happened a year ago between neighbors in Keserwan, and the dispute escalated due to the barking of a dog at night, which led to shootings and the death of one of the neighbors.”
Al-Gemayel, who has been following up on the case, added that Salameh had appealed the sentence against him.

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