” My kids can’t get out of the entrance of the building by themselves because of the many dogs outside “. ” The howling of these animals at night gave me trouble sleeping “. ” Their voices after midnight made us feel the approach of danger”. These cries launched in different neighborhoods show the distress of the people of Cairo vis-à-vis stray dogs that are itinerant vectors of disease. Pedestrians are therefore at risk of being contaminated with rabies if bitten. But the solutions adopted for a long time by the cities are still ineffective, especially since those responsible for this file find themselves trapped between the hammer of animal rights defenders who fight against violence against of street dogs and neighborhood residents who fear being bitten. . A situation that prompted some volunteers to find a solution to the problem.
The starting point of this search for a solution is the fourth gate, in the name of Mina, to the Hadayeq Al-Ahram district, in Guiza. This area is the place reserved for the meeting of rescuers or more 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 national strategy 2030 launched by the government with the goal of combating rabies (according to the goals of the UN program for sustainable development). ” This disease affects mammals and can infect humans through bites or severe scratches. The State has given the signal to eliminate it through a serious collaboration between civil society, volunteers and the General Body of Veterinary Services, and this, by launching campaigns of awareness, vaccination and sterilization “, explained Nada Hafez, coordinator of this campaign.
According to Gamal Salem, director general of the Veterinary Services Agency, 69 people die every year from rabies. And in 2021, 522,000 citizens took the rabies vaccine. ” Vaccinating people is more expensive than dogs. This type of campaign aimed at giving the vaccine to these animals is important, to solve the problem in a radical way and reduce costs and damage. “, he underlined.
In the hunting area
An atmosphere of unity prevails among the volunteers who roam the streets in search of stray dogs. Before leaving for the field, they gather water and dry food to share with those who are hungry and thirsty among the group, which usually reaches about ten people. Nada emphasized the message conveyed by this group of volunteers by wearing a T-shirt calling for stray dogs not to be killed. He tried to organize the work between the team members by determining the designated areas to gather the dogs. The most important person in this mission is Yehia Ali. A Syrian hunter who usually comes in a car with a cage to house the animals. He has special training to carry out this task and pass on his knowledge to other volunteers.
Yehiah skillfully grabbed the dog by the back of the neck. A method that does not anger the animal, but on the contrary, calms it because, according to him, their mothers brought them this way. However, he uses an anesthetic syringe to control active or aggressive dogs. ” Within 2 years, the government agreed to use new methods to deal with the growing number of stray dogs on the streets. Solutions that may be more humane than those used in the past such as poisoning the animal or shooting them with cartridges. “And to add:” In the Governorate of Guiza, the location of vaccinated and sterilized dogs is identified on the map through Google Maps so that the region where they are found appears as a green zone, that is, the stray dogs in this district does not represent any danger. for pedestrians “, commented Nada.
Vaccinations are done annually and sterilized dogs have ear tags. ” The contact details of every dog that was vaccinated on the streets that was targeted in the campaign, such as the vaccine sticker, its date, the sex of the dog and the number of dogs that were vaccinated or spayed in that area are also continuously recorded. “, explained Nada, continuing that the vaccination or sterilization campaigns are carried out 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, to guarantee the volunteers access to the most dogs and guarantee by following its success prevention campaign. As for the sterilization operation, it is more expensive and costs 700 LE for women and 600 LE for men. ” Sterilization is very important, because it helps to reduce biting accidents against pedestrians. These animals seem to be more aggressive during the breeding season. In addition, women become belligerent after giving birth. The purpose of this method is to calm these animals, so that the streets are quieter and quieter, because the continuous barking at this time can also provoke people against them. What prompts residents in some neighborhoods to poison dogs », commented Hani Thomas, a volunteer who is in the process of creating an awareness project that emphasizes the importance of each animal in the ecological system.
This awareness is due to the fact that the agricultural law n° 53 of the year 1966 canceled the decree of June 5, 1902 that punished any person who showed violence against an animal. The problem becomes worse if we consider that poisoning is a cheap way that everyone can do to end the life of dogs that can disturb the inhabitants with their barking or the pedestrians with their attacks . The price of one kilogram 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 of Al-Tagammoe Al-Khamès, poisoning or shooting with cartridges is not an effective solution, because dogs have a greater reproductive capacity. : a couple of dogs can give birth to twenty puppies per year. In addition, these animals often change their habitat and may move and leave the neighborhood they live in when there is a threat. ” So it is high time to find other solutions. “, he concluded.
For her part, Nada Hafez relies on raising awareness by hanging street signs or sharing messages on social networks including information that explains the behavior of dogs, their characters and the times that they pose a danger. He explained that their barking for example at night can be beneficial to the residents instead of a source of noise. This is because of their guardian nature that prohibits dogs that are foreign to their habitat from entering it. ” This is his only way of expressing himself “, explained Tamer Ramzi, an engineer who campaigns with this group of volunteers for the dogs’ rights to life.
The efforts of these volunteers are not limited to vaccination, sterilization and awareness. It is also about finding shelters for vulnerable dogs. ” Here we accept dogs who cannot live on the streets because their lives are in danger, such as those who are paralyzed, blind, deaf and dumb, those who suffer from malnutrition or others. “, listed Lobna Helmi. His foundation, which inaugurated a shelter, reserved 2,000 places for them.
Although these volunteers face a real financial crisis, they rely heavily on their deep conviction of the greatness of their cause, the protection of these domestic animals and their right to exist on the streets without a threat to their lives or by passers-by. ” Animal rights activists in Egypt continue to grow. More and more volunteers. Despite the challenges, we have also met people who help us for free, like veterinarians, who are willing to accept half their salary to save a dying animal. by Lobna Helmi.