In March of this year, a tragic incident occurred in the Sheikh Zayed area of Giza Governorate, Egypt. A pitbull belonging to an Egyptian TV presenter attacked a young neighbor named Mohamed El Mawi, resulting in severe injuries and severed tendons in his arm. Sadly, after spending a month in a coma, the young man passed away. The public prosecution is currently investigating the cause of death, including whether the dog’s bite led to a cardiac arrest and coma, or if there were other contributing factors involved.
This incident, along with previous similar incidents, has brought attention to the issue of dog aggression in Egypt. The Egyptian House of Representatives has also highlighted the prevalence of “dog fighting” practices in various governorates.
Additionally, Cairo is home to a popular market known as the “Friday Market” in the Sayeda Zeinab district, where different types of pets, including aggressive animals like crocodiles, snakes, and bats, are bought and sold. These practices have raised concerns about the safety and regulation of animals in the country.
To address these issues, the Egyptian government enacted Law No. 29 of 2023, which aims to regulate dangerous animals and dogs. However, the law has faced opposition from dog owners and breeding experts who argue that specific breeds are not inherently dangerous but may exhibit aggression due to unregulated practices in Egypt. The controversy surrounding the law has even led to a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
Understanding the Law on the Regulation of Dangerous Animals and Dogs
Law No. 29 of 2023 consists of 27 articles that provide mechanisms for issuing licenses for dangerous animals, establish frameworks for their protection and healthcare, and require the delivery of unpermitted and stray animals posing a danger to human life to the competent authorities. The law also prohibits the presence of such animals in public places and encourages homeowners associations to report any dangerous animals residing in their vicinity without a license.
Penalties for violating the provisions of the law range from three months’ imprisonment to life imprisonment, depending on the circumstances. It also imposes fines ranging from 10,000 to 2 million Egyptian pounds in cases where deliberate harm caused by a dangerous animal results in death. The law includes provisions for licensing fees, which vary based on the conditions set by the executive regulations that are expected to be issued within six months.
Attached to the law are two tables: one listing prohibited animal species and another listing animals allowed to be owned.
The prohibited animals include various dog breeds, feline species, monkey species, dangerous reptiles, and poisonous insects.
The list of allowed animals is limited to ten small-sized dog breeds. The law grants the competent minister the authority to update the list of dangerous animals as needed.
Controversies and Opposition to the Dog Ownership Laws in Egypt
The law has faced significant opposition from dog owners and animal rights organizations. They argue that the classification of certain breeds as dangerous is not based on scientific evidence and that the law fails to consider the individual dog’s personality and upbringing. Dog owners are particularly concerned about the provision that requires them to surrender their dogs to the competent authorities, which they interpret as a government decision to euthanize the animals.
The Animal Protection Foundation has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, citing errors in the list of prohibited dog breeds and objecting to the retroactive effect of the law on owners who have raised their dogs for many years. They argue that the law should focus on addressing the actions of wrongdoers rather than punishing all dog owners.
Proposed Amendments and Solutions
In response to the controversies and opposition surrounding Law No. 29 of 2023, there have been calls for amendments and alternative solutions that address the concerns raised by dog owners and animal rights organizations.
Here are some proposed amendments and solutions that could strike a balance between public safety and the welfare of dogs regarding the Dog Ownership Laws in Egypt:
1. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) Reevaluation: Critics argue that breed-specific bans and restrictions are not effective in reducing dog aggression. Instead of focusing on specific breeds, the law could be revised to emphasize responsible ownership and dog training. This would shift the responsibility to the owner to ensure their dogs are well-behaved and pose no threat to public safety.
2. Behavior Assessments: Implementing behavior assessments for dogs could provide a more accurate measure of an individual dog’s temperament and aggression levels. This would involve evaluating a dog’s behavior, socialization skills, and response to various stimuli. Dogs that pass the assessment could be exempted from breed restrictions and allowed to be owned, provided they receive appropriate training and care.
3. Education and Awareness Programs: Investing in public education and awareness campaigns about responsible dog ownership, canine behavior, and proper training techniques can help address the root causes of dog aggression. These programs can empower dog owners with knowledge and resources to raise well-behaved and socialized dogs.
4. Strengthening Animal Welfare Laws: Alongside regulations on dangerous animals, there should be comprehensive animal welfare laws that protect all animals from abuse, neglect, and cruelty. This would ensure that animals are treated humanely and that owners are held accountable for their actions.
5. Stricter Regulation of Animal Markets: The existence of markets where dangerous and exotic animals are readily available raises concerns about public safety. Implementing stricter regulations and monitoring these markets can help prevent the sale and acquisition of animals that pose a threat to humans and other animals.
6. Collaboration with Animal Experts and Organizations: To develop effective regulations and policies, it is crucial for the government to engage in meaningful dialogue and collaboration with animal behaviorists, veterinarians, and animal rights organizations. These experts can provide valuable insights and expertise to inform decision-making processes and ensure the welfare of both humans and animals.
While the Dog Ownership Laws in Egypt, law No. 29 of 2023, aims to address the problem, it has faced opposition and criticism from various stakeholders. Balancing public safety with the rights and welfare of dogs is a complex challenge that requires careful consideration and collaboration.
By reevaluating breed-specific legislation, implementing behavior assessments, focusing on education and awareness, strengthening animal welfare laws, regulating animal markets, and engaging experts and organizations, Egypt can strive to create a safer environment for both humans and animals. It is essential to find a middle ground that promotes responsible dog ownership while addressing the root causes of aggression, ultimately leading to harmonious coexistence between dogs and society.