There are over three million cats and dogs roaming Egyptian streets. Love them or hate them, the role they play in maintaining ecological balance is vital. The absence of stray cats would result in an infestation of mice and rats, which are known to carry and spread serious infectious diseases easily transmitted to humans. "Dogs, being territorial by nature, are often used by factory guards and bawabs [doormen] in less densely populated areas for security reasons," explained Dina Zulfikar, animal rights advocate.
The extermination of stray animals under the pretext that they can spread diseases amongst humans is absurd when compared to the multifarious diseases humans can pass on to each other. In the light of this, animal rights amateurs and activists stood up against the mass poisoning of stray cats at the Gezira Club a couple of weeks ago. We spoke to Nihal El Naggar, one of the founders of The Egyptian Society for the Baladi Dog, for whom stray dogs is on the daily agenda.
What inspired you to start?
The Baladi dog—our native Egyptian breed—leads a very sad life despite all its merits. While the world is improving animal welfare laws, our local authorities shoot or poison strays. Both methods pose a danger to the community and the environment. The laws protecting animals are not implemented, and the number of NGOs compared to the magnitude of the problem is still too small to have an impact.
Do you find it harder to re-home Baladi dogs?
Re-homing the Egyptian breed is a major challenge, but then again if this weren't the case we wouldn't exist. We try to follow the guidelines of the Battersea Cats and Dog Home in the UK, and have a thorough interviewing process both at the shelter and the applicant's home. Breeders or those who keep dogs outdoors are automatically rejected. It is important for us to know where our dogs are going, there is no point rescuing a dog for it to have a different but equally miserable life.
How many dogs do you currently have in your shelter?
We have more or less 100 dogs.
Has the status of stray animals improved over the last few years?
The situation has not improved if we measure it in terms of cruelty incidents, number and rate of adoption. But there is a leap forward in the number of rescue centers and veterinary clinics which increased drastically over the last twenty years. Although there is an emerging dog culture, it brings an interest in foreign breeds. This creates a different problem, like the exploitative puppy breeding mills.
Why do you think animal abuse is prevalent in our society?
Misguided culture and ignorance. I have met people with limited resources willing to share what they have with their pet, while others from affluent backgrounds mistreated their pet or mocked the Baladi breed.
How do you financially sustain yourself?
We are personally financed by Nouran El Naggar the chairperson. We've also established The Charity Gift Shop from which all proceeds go to support our Baladi dog NGO.