Stray Dogs in Egypt are Becoming a Rampant Urban Inconvenience

The street dogs are more prominent in poorly lit and rubbish strewn areas, they avoid areas crowded with humans.
Ahmed el-Shorbagi, owner of the HOPE shelter for stray dogs, feeds dogs in the shelter’s courtyard, in the village of Abusir, about 20 kilometres southwest of the Egyptian capital Cairo on December 12, 2018. – In Egypt, stray dogs, commonly referred to as ‘baladi dogs’, are widely viewed as unsanitary and dirty. They are typically seen running about the streets and scavenging garbage for food. There are no official data on the size of the stray dogs’ population but activists say they are running loose in millions. Animal rights advocates have sought to offer solutions to the crisis, actively removing dogs from the streets and giving them homes. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP)

Calls are being made for stray dogs to be brought under control in Cairo following rampant complaints about dog attacks, exposure to rabies and in some cases even deaths. There were around 400,000 cases of dog bites in 2017. These strays commonly referred to as “Baladi dogs” are usually seen scouring garbage on the streets for food.

There were around 400,000 cases of dog bites in 2017 according to the agriculture ministry. And in the last 4 years, rabies has been the cause of 231 deaths in Egypt’s society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) estimate that the stray dogs in Cairo may be more than 15 million.

The street dogs are more prominent in poorly lit and rubbish strewn areas, they avoid areas crowded with humans. The dog problem was exacerbated by a larger garbage problem in Egypt as garbage disposal workers haven’t fully returned to work since the uprising.

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But animal rights groups have criticized the the governments methods of handling the situation, accusing them of mass dog killings. According to an August report by the governorate’s veterinary directorate, over 17,000 stray dogs were killed in Beni Sueif, in 2017 following disturbance and biting complaints.

The government has gone as far as offering ransoms of up to a 100 Egyptian pounds to people who capture and hand over at least five strays. Animal rights defenders also accuse the government of killing dogs using a banned substance, known as “strychnine”.

The agriculture ministry spokesman Hamed Abdel-Dayem denied that the government imported banned substances. “Is it logical that we allow internationally prohibited substances to enter the country?”

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Animal rights groups’ capacity to fight back is limited, for example the SPCA has not had a headquarters since the it was looted during the uprising.

Animal rights advocates have sought to offer solutions, Ahmed al-Shorbagi, opened two dog shelters near the Giza pyramids. The shelter is funded 60 percent by donations while Shorbagi takes care of the rest.

Shorbagi believes that if the government can employ effort to clear the garbage, provide rabies sterilisation and dog sterilisation programmes, they won’t be too far from a lasting solution.

“Instead of the government paying millions of dollars to import poison, it should consider sterilisation,” he said. “We, as associations, proposed to the ministry of agriculture to solve the problem but it refused.”

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Abdel-Dayem denied refusing to cooperate with private groups and praised their effort in seeking a solution for this problem.

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