The number of stray dogs and cats we see on the streets is worrying, especially when combined with all the cute fluffy puppies available to buy at the hundreds of pet shops in the city. The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) was set up in 2007, in order to improve the welfare of animals in Egypt.
The team at ESMA are dedicated to spreading awareness of cruelty to animals. Most of the animals they take in have lived in horrendous conditions, barely surviving on the street and scavenging for food. More often than not, the innocent animals have been mistreated and, in some cases, tortured by many of the people that they come into contact with. As an initiative, ESMA aims to educate the public on improved treatment of all of animals in Egypt; not only domestic pets but working animals, wildlife and those kept in captivity, too. Since the revolution of 2011, work horses have been particularly affected by the decrease in tourism and ESMA regularly feed between 300 and 500 starving work horses around the Great Pyramids of Giza.
As well as this, their two rescue and adoption centres house almost 1000 homeless cats and dogs, meaning they run at complete full capacity and now find themselves turning animals away. The shelters operate on a no-kill basis; the animals are never put down and they are all spayed and neutered to avoid people adopting for breeding purposes.
ESMA's main goal is to find permanent 'forever homes' for their animals, though they also run foster schemes and facilitate adoption from abroad to help place as many cats and dogs as they can in stable, loving homes.
Their website and Facebook page are often updated with photos of animals needing homes and the stories behind their rescue. Seemingly, many people simply don't grasp the huge responsibility that comes with owning an animal, resulting in a high number of abandoned animals.
Featured on the website is the story of Cherina; a dog who was lucky enough to be rescued from a group of boys who tortured and killed her brother. They cut off the tips of her ears with scissors, tied her to a tree and continued to beat her with sticks over several months. When she was eventually found and brought in by a good samaritan, Cherina received the medical attention she needed at the shelter and has managed to regain some trust in humans. At 14 months old, Cherina is ready and waiting to be adopted into a loving family.
Animal poisoning is a cruel and heartless phenomenon, happening all too often in Egypt, particularly in communities that wish to cleanse themselves of stray animals. A stunning black dog, aptly named Blacky, was rescued from several poisoning attempts; however, after receiving threats herself, his guardian angel had no choice but to hand him over to ESMA. Many of their dogs have similar stories and have, in many cases, only narrowly avoided death.
The stories behind their abundance of cats are far from dissimilar and are either found abandoned or poisoned. A beautiful, white, fluffy cat named Lady Diana was abandoned in the desert and walked for days with no food or water before eventually finding her way to the side of a highway where she was picked up, exhausted and dehydrated, by her current foster mum. Although ESMA don't disclose details, the story of a striking yellow-eyed cat named Malek stands out; having lost a leg to his abusers, the cat has managed to gain some semblence of normality in its life. The shelter is still looking for 'forever homes' for Lady Diana, Malek and countless others.
ESMA relies solely on donations and volunteers, as well as foster parents and 'forever homes' for their dogs and cats. Because there are so many, they have cats and dogs to suit just about any potential owner. The first step of the adoption process is to fill out a form, which is then followed by a phone interview, before being invited to the shelter. In order for ESMA to take on any more animals, space at the kennels must be freed up through adoption or fostering. Click here to visit their website if you think you could help, either through adoption, fostering, volunteering or donating.