The Divisive Issue of Dog Ownership in Egypt
In the pet-loving UK dogs are a firm favourite, but you might be surprised to hear that recently this has become true over in Egypt too.
For many years under Islam, the majority religion in Egypt, it was historically perceived that dogs are unclean and not to be kept as pets, although keeping dogs was permitted for hunting and guarding tasks. However, in 2020 after some of Egypt’s well-respected religious scholars successfully challenged Islamic law, dogs became recognised by Muslims as ‘pure’, in a statement issued by Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawky Allam (source: Arab News).
As a result, the popularity of pet dogs in Egypt increased considerably - and visibly - with dogs regularly seen on walks and in leisure settings with their owners in Cairo, for example. This growth in dog ownership is also evident in the pet food industry, with Ireland’s Research and Markets report on the Egyptian Pet Food Market (2022-2027) revealing that, much like in the UK, ‘the dog is the most favoured pet in Egypt, followed closely by cats’.
Another law change
However, this period of dogs as pets without persecution started to come to a rapid end when, in May 23, another Egyptian Law was passed - the ‘Regulation of the Possession of Dangerous Animals and Dogs.’
This highly divisive bill puts the ownership of dogs right alongside dangerous wild animals such as tigers and lions, in requiring owners to register their animals with Egypt’s General Organisation for Veterinary Services. This organisation has been appointed by the government to act as the authority on dog ownership and registration requires an inspection to identify whether individual dogs are safe to own as pets, for a fee of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds (approx £1,234) payable by the owner.
The divisive dog list
The bill includes a list of just 10 breeds of dog which can be approved for registration without additional inspection - although the registration fee remains payable, with the amount depending on the breed. The ‘approved breed’ list, of dogs chosen for their ‘friendly natures’ includes:
- Cocker spaniels
- Jack Russell terriers
- Great Danes
- White German shepherds
- Maltese dogs
Other breeds can be registered if approved at the inspection. However, some breeds have been pre-identified as not approved, including Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, German Shepherds, Pitbulls and Huskies, amongst many others. The approved breeds list can be changed by the veterinary authority at any time and any dog which is not approved at inspection is confiscated by the authority.
In force for the future
As well as requiring dog owners to comply with the registration and inspection process at the start, the law also requires owners to inform the authority of future events and incidents, for instance if their dog runs away, causes an injury or accident, or breeds. Any failure to follow up and notify the government brings potentially heavy fines for owners, with penalties increasing significantly if the dog causes injury or damage to another person or property.
Although originally sought to help address street dog numbers, irresponsible dog ownership and activities such as dog-fighting in Egypt, the bill has resulted in considerable financial and emotional impact on responsible owners who find themselves with the ‘wrong’ kind of dog and on the wrong side of the law.And whilst a system of pet registration is always a positive step in responsible pet ownership, the discussion around ‘approved’ dog breeds also raises the question of what happens to the confiscated dogs, especially as the bill does not specify. With Egyptian dog rescue centres already struggling with numbers, this divisive topic is causing significant debate and division across national and international communities of pet owners, pet lovers and veterinarians.