If a nation is said to be “going to the dogs” it is envisioned that it is becoming less successful than it was in the past. In the case of Egypt if its treatment of dogs is indicative, it is not only going to the dogs, it is well on the way to hell.
In our small tourist town of Dahab, South Sinai on the stunningly beautiful shores of the Gulf of Aqaba, local Bedouin, mainland Egyptians, foreigners and a population of friendly streetwise dogs have been living in relative peace and harmony for many years. The presence of street animals seems to polarise people into lovers or haters and while I certainly belong to the lovers, my pragmatic streak ensures I believe that the animal population of both dogs and cats should not burgeon.
To this end many have supported a Trap, Neuter and Release programme, TNR, where dogs and cats are neutered and returned to the area they live in. By returning the non breeding animals they remain in their established territories and discourage other animals from intruding and breeding. Research shows that if 75% of the animals are neutered the population remains stable; people become familiar with the animals and everybody lives in harmony.
With many restaurants and caring humans these street animals in Dahab are healthy and well fed. They even have names and sometimes their own Facebook Page like Broken Cat of Dahab, who spent his last days in regal retirement at Blue Beach Club Hotel and Foxy of the Lighthouse, a pooch with a distinctive golden shaggy coat.
The TNR programmes themselves are run by local groups such as Dahab Animal Welfare and Janet’ Streetdogs in partnership with volunteer overseas veterinarians who come and spend two weeks on a six monthly basis to attend to the young or previously missed animals. At the beginning of this year Cogges Clinic from the United Kingdom decided to celebrate their 20 years in business by volunteering to spend two weeks in Dahab. It was a frantic but well organised effort that neutered 128 animals; this on top of other regular neuterings carried out by the busy local female Egyptian veterinarian, Dr Ameira.
The success of this programme has now been blown sky high with an orchestrated, unprecedented poisoning campaign that is currently being carried out by unknown persons in the holy week of Ramadan. It has been usual in the past for poison to be distributed on the streets at certain times, and these poisonings were one of the reasons the TNR programmes were introduced. Not many in a tourist town want to see dying dogs lying on the streets or beaches, most people abhorring the cruelty of the death. Poisoning is also totally indiscriminate and many pets have died from ingesting the poison while out running in unpopulated areas or even while on a leash!
Further investigation has revealed that Egypt’s current regime has just introduced a kill all street dogs campaign. Photographs depicting dead dogs alongside Ahmed from Ismalia who describes “feels excited” on his Facebook status from bludgeoning 13 dogs to death along with his friends. Some more enlightened and forewarned districts of Cairo like Zamalek which fortunately for it, is an island on the Nile River and has an established TNR programme, are trying to opt out of the mass killings with notifications throughout the neighbourhood the neighbourhood and alerting the authorities.
The authorities in Dahab are also well aware of the TNR programme but it would seem renegade officials or locals or both, are choosing to completely ignore the residents’ wishes. This of course cannot be confirmed as all are denying any involvement and the poisonings are carried out under the stealth of darkness. The preferred method of destruction is poisoning, usually Strychnine which can easily be purchased by anybody.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi. Amnesty International reports a sharp increase in human rights abuse, thousands in detention, reports of torture and death since the ousting of the democratically elected Morsi, deposed in July 2013. According to WikiThawra, an initiative run by the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social rights, at least 80 people died in custody over the past year and more than 40,000 people were detained or indicted between July 2013 and mid-May 2014. Maybe this campaign offers the population a vector to release their frustration resulting from 74% increases in fuel prices, and rising electricity prices and other goods and services. It remains to be seen what will happen.
If it was terrible under Mubarek, unbearable under Morsi, it is descending to unliveable under Sisi.