Some dog owners in Egypt have been surprised to see their dogs confiscated in public areas by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture recently on the grounds that they do not have valid licences, with confiscations having been reported in Alexandria governorate and Sheikh Zayed city in Greater Cairo, among other places.
The owners have been told by officials to head to the nearest veterinary units in their districts and pay a fine of LE4,000 to get their pets back. If they fail to do so, their dogs could be sold or even euthanised.
“I think it makes no sense to issue such a law when the difference between a pet and a stray dog is so obvious. If they are doing this to ensure vaccinations, then they should be aware that anyone who is reasonable would vaccinate his pet anyway without having someone force him to do so,” said Cairo dog owner Tarek Khairy.
“Vaccinations are necessary for the pet’s health and for the owner’s as well. Now they are asking for money and issuing fines and threatening to kill my pet if I don’t have a licence. This is outrageous. I’m aware that registration laws exist for pets outside Egypt, but threatening to kill a pet if you don’t have one is wrong,” he added.
According to the General Authority for Veterinary Services, responsible for implementing the law on licences, the spread of stray dogs is a problem that requires cooperation and coordination between all the relevant authorities, and for this reason it is essential that all pet dogs have valid licences.
Abandoned areas and the accumulation of garbage are main factors leading to the spread of stray dogs, which can carry diseases, including rabies. Lately there has been a tendency for people to adopt stray dogs and give them a home and of course also vaccinate them instead of buying an expensive imported breed, the authority said. This is helpful and merciful to the stray dogs, but even so they need licences, it added.
“You need to head to your nearest veterinary hospital after your dog has reached the stage when it is ready for its rabies shot, and then you should pay between LE65 and LE100 depending on the type of dog to be granted a licence,” said vet Mohamed Mahmoud.
“Prices vary, and if you head to a private veterinarian, like in Madinaty, the cost is more like LE250. The sole purpose of this is to protect anyone who gets bitten, as rabies is a major safety concern. The law on licences is being inforced in Alexandria a lot more than in Cairo. But the process itself is not a hassle, and you will usually receive the licence the next day after completing the procedure.”
Rabies is a dangerous disease, and there is a need to accelerate the fight against it and break the cycle of transmission in stray animals and dogs. This means the implementation of comprehensive plans in accordance with the available capabilities and the relevant laws.
Reports from the General Administration for Common Diseases indicate that the total number of vaccinated dogs in July 2020 amounted to 2,818 animals, when 2,734 licences were issued. The Central Department of Public Health and Slaughterhouses also said that licensing dogs was the best way to eliminate rabies because the licence was linked to vaccination against the disease. The licence is signalled by a small metal ring attached to a dog’s collar, and this proves the owner’s ownership of the dog and its vaccination schedule.
The licence and vaccination also protect the owner from any legal liability should a dog bite a member of the public. The licence’s purpose is to help to implement veterinary health regulations through periodic vaccinations to avoid infectious diseases.
According to head of the General Authority for Veterinary Services Abdel-Hakim Mahmoud, the authority acts as a first line of defence to limit the spread of epidemic diseases among animals through a regular system of immunisation and surveillance of transboundary diseases from neighbouring countries. It also takes all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of meat and products of animal origin produced locally or imported from abroad, and it acts to prevent the spread of diseases from animals by eliminating pathogens in animals and preventing them from reaching people.
The authority has also not lost sight of its duty to assist in the preservation of wild animals and in protecting endangered animals through breeding and veterinary care programmes.
Governor of Alexandria Mohamed Al-Sherif recently issued new regulations for dog-owners in the city, as has been widely reported in the media, meaning that people who possess dogs, regardless of their status, are prohibited from walking them in roads and public places without masking them and ensuring that the dogs are on a leash.
A serial number indicating its licensing and immunisation must also be attached to a pet dog’s collar. Legal measures will be taken against anyone violating the regulations, the governor said, in accordance with the provisions of the relevant laws. Fines could be levied on violators of LE1,000 and measures taken to seize dogs that represent a danger to public health, with any expenses for providing veterinary care during the subsequent quarantine period being born by their owners.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 October, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly