According to the Facebook page of “Mercy to Animals”, 10,000 people are bitten by stray dogs each month in Egypt.
A recent report by parliament’s Local Administration Committee, discussed this week by MPs on the Agricultural Committee, suggested building shelters for stray dogs in which they are treated, vaccinated and spayed.
Ahmed El-Segini, the head of the Local Administration Committee, says street dogs should be collected in all governorates and provided with basic medical care. Some, he added, could be shipped to countries like Switzerland where Egyptian dogs are used by the police.
El-Segini spoke in a telephone interview on Lamees Al-Hadidi’s daily talk show Al-Qahera Al-Aan (Cairo Now), aired on the satellite channel Al-Hadath.
Animal rights activist Mona Khalil told Al-Ahram Weekly that El-Segini had presented in his interview a skewed picture of what was happening.
“The committee’s meeting did not involve NGOs, as the MP claimed. Only one government-affiliated NGO, which had previously said the only way to solve the problem of stray dogs is to kill them, was present,” Khalil said.
“Though the discussion is moving away from the random poisoning and shooting of dogs, which is positive, the debate still has a long way to go.”
Khalil, the founder of the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), one of the largest NGOs dealing with stray animals, says that while establishing shelters and spaying dogs is welcome, she believes that the aim of the plan would be exporting it to dog-meat consuming countries such as China and South Korea is not.
Last year, MP Margret Azer suggested Egypt export its stray dogs for meat consumption as an alternative to “shooting dogs dead or castrating them”.
“We could collect the stray dogs and place them in a farm where they would be put on a special diet for proper nutrition and then slaughtered and exported,” Azer said.
“This is a plan that we know is being considered and were it not for social pressure it would be applied,” says Khalil.
Khalil is also concerned that the report made no mention of how the shelters were to be funded.
The government estimates that there are 15 million stray dogs in Egypt. Who is going to pay for their collection, vaccination, feeding and upkeep in shelters, she asks.
The media reported that in 2017 authorities killed more than 17,000 stray dogs following complaints of disturbances and biting in Beni Sweif, south of Cairo.
In the same year, the Red Sea governorate offered a reward of LE100 for capturing five stray dogs and delivering them to the veterinary authority to be put down.
The heads of local municipalities often post pictures of campaigns to kill stray dogs, often by mass poisoning. Animal rights advocates have repeatedly demanded more merciful alternatives be found.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Dogged dilemma