- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2002

NYABIRA, Zimbabwe (AP) Bonnie, a golden Labrador retriever, is one of 600 dogs that once guarded now-abandoned white-owned farms that are being put down by veterinarians in a blitz of euthanasia.

The dogs, along with hundreds of domestic pets, horses, swans and even goldfish, are the latest victims in Zimbabwe's political unrest, animal welfare workers say.

"People have suffered in this, but the animals have no mouth to speak, no ability to make other plans. They are the silent victims of the tragedy," said Meryll Harrison, head of the independent Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Miss Harrison stroked Bonnie's fur, and veterinarian Anthony Donohoe pumped the phenylbarbitone into a vein in the dog's right foreleg that will take the fatal drug straight to her heart and vital organs in a second or two.

Bonnie's body is laid alongside the dogs that came before her. Farther away, a 12-foot deep grave has been dug for the 24 dogs put down Monday in the once thriving farming community of Nyabira, 20 miles northwest of Harare, the capital. Graves nearby hold the remains of 130 other guard dogs put down since Friday.

About 440 others will also die, abandoned by the security company that owned them when it collapsed a week ago.

"I cannot think of anywhere else in the world where 600 dogs have to be put down because all we can provide them with is a dignified death," Miss Harrison said.

The security company provided crop guards and protection for about 300 white farmers in the Trelawney and Darwindale tobacco and corn district. It shut down after most of the farms were seized under a government program to take white-owned land and give it to blacks.

Dr. Donohoe said his veterinary practice in Harare is putting down about 60 domestic pets about 10 of them cats each week as farmers and others leave in the worst economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

The government has targeted 95 percent of the nation's 5,000 white-owned properties for confiscation.

As farmers fled, horses, chickens, domestic pets, hamsters, cranes, geese, swans, hand-reared lion cubs, at least one tamed baby elephant and even goldfish were abandoned, she said.

Some animals had their tendons cut by militants. Some were clubbed. Others were slashed, axed or torched to death in hay.

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