“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated” – Mahatma Gandhi
Our treatment of animals in general has never been something of pride for us Egyptians. In the last couple of years, we have seen the deterioration of zoos all around Egypt, the increase of street animals, and the worrying rumor of the distribution of poison to eliminate them. Our treatment of animals today is incompatible with our history, culture and identity and it needs to change.
Sally and Mahmoud are a young Egyptian couple who are dedicating their lives to working with street dogs. It all started 2 years ago, when Sally was working full-time in economic development, a field she had worked in for 10 years, from children NGOs to the Central Bank and the Swiss Embassy. Sally partnered with her husband Mahmoud as volunteers in rescuing street dogs, taking them in and fostering them and finding their new homes in Egypt or abroad. Not long after, Sally then realized that working with dogs was their passion. She quit her career in development after deciding it was time to create Kelabi, a boarding facility for dogs which turned into a business. Rescuing dogs and finding adopters would nonetheless still be a volunteering activity they do for their love of dogs.
The Business: Boarding Dogs and How To Do It Properly
At Kelabi, the business model is based on boarding dogs whose owners are travelling or taking a break for a couple of days. Sally and Mahmoud who are themselves owners of four dogs, (Billy, Gucci, Diesel and Oliver) told me that their main issue is that they could never trust anyone with their dogs, meaning that she could never travel and that when she did, it was logistically very hard.
“Kelabi provides one-on-one care for the dogs. It is not only a dog hotel, where we feed and walk the dogs. They are mainly there to play with us, and we as owners in addition to the rest of the staff are there 7 days a week to make sure that everything is alright,” she said. “All of this is done with the objective of taking care of them from an emotional point of view, because when dogs leave their homes they are very distressed about it,” she added.
“It is very hard and stressful for dogs to leave their owners and our job is to replace the dog owner. Our edge is that we make sure that the dog has firstly tailored one-on-one care with a human and secondly a dog friend. What also differentiates us from other players in the industry is that Mahmoud and I as owners are also dog trainers who understand dog behavior, meaning that we do not discriminate against any breed of dog, or those who have special medical needs. Many players in the industry discriminate against different breeds, like Baladi dogs, or old and paralyzed dogs. We take all dogs, and Baladi dogs usually make up 70% of our guests.”
Kelabi has the operational capacity to take up to 22 dogs but Sally insisted that she will not expand.
“I want to keep it this way as I want quality over quantity. I can always build more kennels but it will compromise the quality of service, and I want to be there for every dog and know its name, which enables me to provide the same level of care that they get at home,” she said.
Rescuing Dogs: Kelabi’s Core and Egypt’s Tragedy
As discussed above, Kelabi’s idea came after Sally and Mahmoud turned to rescuing dogs on a part-time basis. But what is this concept of rescuing dogs? Why is it a crisis? Most of the animals living on Egypt’s streets are called “baladi”, meaning native Egyptian breed. But many Egyptians look down at these animals, considering them dirty, sick and ruthless. If they are so, it is because they are continuously mistreated in the streets, whether beaten, chased after, or abused.
In an article written by Al Ahram Online depicting the horrendous conditions that street dogs and cats live in, it is reported that the latter are subjected to beatings with sticks, acid attacks and that poison is constantly distributed.
“The problem with our society is that we look at street and baladi dogs as pests. The only way we are intervening is by mass killings through poison. Firstly, this is dangerous to us as human beings, as it is not safe to have poison in our streets, and this method is also more costly and does not fix the problem in the long term. What I would want to promote more is firstly to create sterilization campaigns in terms of neutering and spaying so that they do not reproduce, do mass vaccinations and let them take their course and they will die naturally. When you poison they will just continue on coming,” Sally said.
She also pointed out something very important about our streets that attract and keep street animals alive. “We also need to fix the trash problem as it is their source of food. If we don’t resolve the issue of waste on our streets, animals will continue coming back.”
Currently Egypt’s method is to spend a lot on killing street animals, but they continuously come back due to a problem in waste collection. Mahmoud also told me that only expats and a few Egyptians adopt baladi dogs. Egyptians and locals prefer to spend big sums on importing breeds from the West, and in the end some of them could end up on the streets. He pointed out that you can spot different breeds of dogs on the streets and that they were all mostly abandoned.
Now that we are in the process of reconstructing our economy, this is definitely the best time to address the social issues surrounding animal treatment and street animals in Egypt. A preserved and safe ecosystem, is the least we could pass on to future generations.
For more information on Kelabi, you could check their Facebook page here.