It all started with a heartbreaking photo of a Husky puppy dead in its cage. In this puppy’s painfully short lifespan, it never experienced love – only a life behind bars. The breed is adapted to snowy weather, so it shouldn’t even be in Egypt in the first place, but the sad fact is that it is quite common in pet shops here.
Shortly after, two young kittens also took their last breaths behind bars.
The common factor between all three deaths? A long day spent outside in the summer heat with no food or water, not to mention being crammed in small and filthy metal cages. The poor animals were dying of heat stroke and thirst while the pet shop owners stayed indoors in the confines of fans and air conditioners. To make matters worse, the metal cages got extremely hot in the sun, burning the paws of the animals and causing possibly irreversible damage. This is alongside the fact that some of these shops also sold illegal exotic animals that should not be domesticated, such as owls and monkeys.
Maadi residents realized that actions needed to be taken as this was happening right in their neighborhood, and individual efforts were deemed fruitless. Three pet shops on the same street all had the same display: cages kept outside in the sin and animals looking malnourished and thirsty – some of which were unable to even move properly within the confines of their cages.
Together, worried animal lovers gathered to visit the pet shops in question in order to try and reason with the owners. During our visit, we saw an array of responses, from those who were receptive and willing to take action to those who just didn’t care about the dying animals. These owners, after all, are in the business of selling living souls. When an animal dies, it’s a business expense and nothing more.
A few days later, two determined individuals decided to start a Facebook group to unify all the volunteers and arrange weekly visits to pet shops across Cairo. In just two weeks, the number of members spiked to 1,000 – but this is only the beginning.
After only two weekly visits with a list of demands, two of the three pet shops have already started to comply. An owner of one of the pet shops actually decided to stop selling cats and dogs and only sell birds and turtles, while the other started putting animals in more reasonably sized cages and a small open area, in addition to putting artificial grass at the bottom of the metal cages. The third pet shop owner, unfortunately, is adamant. His response has been aggressive both times, and he hasn’t budged a single inch to make life easier for his animals. On the first visit to his shop, we found a kitten so malnourished that our vet said she wouldn’t survive the night. Several individuals had to convince the owner to let the vet take her because he stubbornly believed the kitten could just receive treatment in the shop. Imagine that. Imagine having to convince someone to let another soul live. Let that sink in.
It is too soon to celebrate the first two shops, and too soon to give up on the third. Committing to these changes is exactly that: a commitment. Pet shop owners need to know they’re being held accountable for their actions, and that even though animals have no voice, others will give them a voice.
That’s what you can do: give them a voice. Join the initiative, or at the very least visit the pet shops around you and make sure the animals there are kept in humane conditions. No soul should ever have to live without enough food or water or without being able to move.
No animal lover likes seeing animals traded as commodities; it is not only unethical, but also religiously forbidden. However, any big change needs to happen in baby steps. If an animal must live a life in a cage, the least we can do is make that life bearable.
Let’s take steps. Let’s help those who cannot help themselves.
If you see a pet shop with animals in inhumane conditions, call the General Organization for Veterinary Services (GOVS) at 19561. Ask for the name of the person receiving the report and remember to follow up. If no proper action is taken, call the Chairperson on 0237481750. Be proactive.