” My children can’t get out of the entrance of the building on their own because of a number of dogs outside “. ” The barking of these beasts at night causes me trouble sleeping “. ” Their voices after midnight make us feel the approach of danger”. These crises launched in different neighborhoods show the anguish of the people of Cairo vis-à-vis stray dogs which are itinerant vectors of disease. Pedestrians thus risk being contaminated by rabies in the event of a bite. But the solutions adopted long ago by municipalities are still not effective, especially since those responsible for this file find themselves caught between the hammer of animal rights defenders who fight against violence committed against street dogs and the anvil. neighborhood residents who fear being bitten. A situation that has prompted some volunteers to seek a solution to the problem.
The starting point of this quest for a solution was the fourth gateway, in the name of Mina, to the Hadayeq Al-Ahram district, in Guiza. This place is the place provided for the meeting of saviors or rather friends of dogs. These volunteers wear comfortable clothes to walk the streets to find stray dogs in the four corners of the capital. Objective: to carry out sterilization and vaccination operations for these animals. This campaign is part of the government-led national 2030 strategy aimed at combating rabies (in line with the objectives of the UN program for sustainable development). ” This disease affects mammals and can infect humans in the event of a bite or severe scratches. The State has given a signal to eradicate it through a serious collaboration between civil society, volunteers and the General Body of Veterinary Services, and this, by launching awareness campaigns, vaccination and sterilization “, explains Nada Hafez, coordinator in this campaign.
According to Gamal Salem, director general at the Veterinary Services Agency, 69 people die from a cause of rabies. And in 2021, 522,000 citizens took the rabies vaccine. ” Vaccination of people is much more expensive than that of dogs. This kind of campaign which aims to give the vaccine to these animals is essential, in order to solve the problem in a radical way and to reduce the costs and the damage “, he underlines.
On the hunting ground
An atmosphere of solidarity reigns among the volunteers who roam the streets in search of stray dogs. Before leaving for the field, they stock up on water and dry food to share with those who are hungry and thirsty among the team, which often numbers around ten people. Nada underlines the message conveyed by this team of volunteers by wearing a T-shirt that calls for not killing stray dogs. She tries to organize the work between the team members by specifying the targeted places to gather the dogs. The most essential person in this mission is Yehia Ali. A Syrian hunter who comes most often in a car equipped with a cage to accommodate the animals. He has special training to fulfill this task and pass on his know-how to other volunteers.
Yehiah skilfully holds the dog by the back of the neck. A way that does not provoke the beast, but on the contrary, calms it because, according to him, their mothers carry them in this way. However, he uses an anesthetic syringe to control active or aggressive dogs. ” For 2 years, the government has agreed to use new means to deal with the galloping number of stray dogs in the streets. Solutions that might be more humane than those used like poisoning the beast or shooting them down by cartridges. “And to add:” In the governorate of Guiza, the location of vaccinated and sterilized dogs is identified on a map via Google Maps so that the region where they are found appears as a green zone, that is to say that stray dogs in this district does not represent any danger for pedestrians “, comments Nada.
Vaccination takes place every year and sterilized dogs have ear tags. ” There is also a continuous record of the contact details of each dog vaccinated in the streets targeted by this campaign, such as the vaccine sticker, its date, the sex of the dog and the number of dogs vaccinated or spayed in that area. “, explains Nada, continuing that vaccination or sterilization campaigns are done through donations from animal friends.
These volunteers roam the streets of Cairo to vaccinate and sterilize dogs. (Photo: Magdi Abdel-Sayed)
The price of the rabies vaccine is LE 25, and the General Veterinary Services Agency sells it without any profit margin, in order to guarantee access for volunteers to the greatest number of dogs and guarantee by following the success of this prevention campaign. As for the sterilization operation, it is more expensive and costs 700 LE for the female and 600 LE for the male. ” Sterilization is very important, as it helps reduce bite accidents against pedestrians. These beasts seem to be more aggressive during the breeding season. Moreover, females become quarrelsome following childbirth. The purpose of this procedure is therefore to calm these animals, so that the streets are quieter and also quiet, because the continuous barking during this period could also provoke humans against them. What can drive residents in certain neighborhoods to poison dogs », comments Hani Thomas, a volunteer who is in the process of creating a project to raise awareness of the importance of each animal in the ecological system.
This sensitization is due to the fact that the law of agriculture n° 53 of the year 1966 annulled the decree of June 5, 1902 criminalizing any person showing violence against an animal. The problem becomes more serious if we take into consideration that poisoning is a cheap means within everyone’s reach to put an end to the life of dogs which could disturb the inhabitants by their barking or the pedestrians by their attacks. The price of a kilo of poison does not exceed 12000 LE, while half a gram is enough to kill a dog.
According to Lobna Helmi, president of the Animal Protection Foundation at Al-Tagammoe Al-Khamès, poisoning or shooting with cartridges were not effective solutions, because dogs have a greater ability to reproduce. : a couple of dogs is capable of giving birth to about twenty puppies per year. Moreover, these beasts often change their place of residence and can subsequently move and leave the neighborhood where they live in the event of a threat. ” It is therefore high time to find other solutions she concluded.
For her part, Nada Hafez trusts in raising awareness by hanging signs in the streets or sharing messages on social networks including information that explains the nature of dogs, their characters and the times when they can pose a danger. She explains that their barking for example during the night could be useful to the inhabitants rather than a source of noise. This is due to their guardian nature which prohibits dogs foreign to their place of residence from infiltrating it. ” It’s just his only way to express himself “, explains Tamer Ramzi, an engineer who campaigns with this group of volunteers for the rights of dogs to life.
The efforts of these volunteers are not limited to vaccination, sterilization and awareness. It is also about finding shelters for vulnerable dogs. ” We can accommodate here dogs that do not live on the street because they plan their lives, such as those with paralysis, the blind, the deaf and dumb, those at risk of malnutrition or others. “, enumerates Lobna Helmi. His foundation, which operated a shelter, reserves 2,000 places for them.
Although these volunteers become real financial crises, they count a lot on their deep conviction of the nobility of their cause, that of defending these domestic animals and their right to exist in the street without threat to their life or that of passers-by. ” Animal rights activists in Egypt continue to grow. The ranks of volunteers are growing. Despite the challenges, we also meet people who help us for free, such as veterinarians, who are ready to receive half of their pay to save a dying animal. says Lobna Helmi.
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