It takes a person only a few seconds to look at the picture of the injured dog Rony in order to sense the pain he was feeling. The helpless, agonised look in his eyes and his slightly open jaw that can barely make any sound are devastating. Two years ago, when the picture was taken, Rony’s shoulder bone was hit with a bullet. Due to his bad condition, vets suggested an amputation. However, a group of dog lovers decided to go the hard way and take care of him until he recovered. Today, Rony happily runs with his peers on four legs, due to the medical care he received from the Cairo Animal Rescuer Team (CART).
The CART is the first animal-rescuing team in Egypt. For four years, the team has been saving stray animals which were tortured, abandoned, or severely injured due to accidents.
Consisting of 20 volunteers, members spend their free time answering people’s calls and roaming the governorates aiming to save the lives of animals.
The story started when founder Abdou Jo and his friends used to spend their free time taking care of stray animals. However, after being shocked with the amount of torment stray animals face in Egypt, they decided to officially establish a non-governmental organisation aiming to protect homeless animals that are violently maltreated by humans.
“At first, we used to take them to shelters, but the number of shelters opening their doors for critical cases is very limited. So, we decided to make our own shelter to which we bring the rescued animals and provide them with the appropriate medical care,” Jo told Daily News Egypt.
Over the past year, the CART saved more than 400 stray animals and provided them with the needed medical care, love, and attention.
“Most of the animals we save are cats, dogs, horses, and donkeys,” said Jo. “The cases are usually brutally tortured—this includes hitting, burning, dragging, or choking”.
The cases volunteers save are usually close to death. “We have grown familiar with dogs that are left bleeding after harsh beating on the head, or that were shot by a gun,” Jo explained.
After having to deal with many similar cases, the CART decided to be the voice of the voiceless. “At first, I used to do it out of love. However, now, I feel responsible of these souls. This is my life duty. We see ourselves now as the voices of these souls to humanity in order to stop the violence they are witnessing,” he stated.
Other than fighting those who hit and burn animals’ faces, CART also fights governmental and private institutions’ violence against animals. This includes mass massacres occurring every now and then by the government or sporting clubs.
“We face huge associations all by ourselves. The government either poisons stray cats and dogs or shoots them with bird shots or rubber bullets, which eventually doesn’t kill them, but makes them go through severe pain,” Jo explained, adding that “this is what big, famous sporting clubs do as well”.
Many of the cases saved by the CART are animals looking for a long journey of medical care. This requires the volunteers to personally take care of dozens of helpless animals all alone.
One of the most remarkable cases Jo recalls is that of Sakhr (Rock). Sakhr was an old dog that was abandoned in the streets while he was not even able to walk. “He had all types of illnesses caused by old age, along with many others he caught from the street, like scabies,” Jo recounts.
When Sakhr was rescued, several vets suggested to euthanise him, believing that he won’t make it more than a few days. Even if he did, the vets believed that he would go on to live in pain and would not survive for more than a week, so it would be better to end his suffering.
“We all refused the suggestion and assured that we will take good care of him. Sakhr miraculously lived on for a whole year, throughout which he was very happy. No vet ever imagined that taking care of him would mean taking shifts and changing his diapers, while slowly feeding him every few hours,” he assured.
The CART’s Facebook page receives almost 100 messages requesting to save animals every day. While some people understand the team’s late reply sometimes, others accuse them of not doing “what the team claims to be doing”.
“People don’t understand the pressure we are living under. Seeing animals heartlessly stripped of their skin, or cruelly deprived of their sight, and having to take care of them, making them feel safe again while curing them, is not an easy thing to do, and if we stopped saving animals for only one month, no one else will,” he added.
Despite being looked at as lifesavers, the life of an animal rescuer is not always a pleasant journey.
Besides the psychological discomfort a rescuer permanently lives with due to the cases one witnesses on a daily basis, putting up with the financial burden is life-draining for the volunteers.
“We no longer have a social life ever since we established the CART,” Jo said, explaining that “we are either roaming the streets for animals, following up with the medical care of the already rescued ones, or working because we need the salaries to keep the shelter going.”
“I rarely see my family, I don’t have time to travel during vacations anymore, and developing my career and knowledge has become a luxury that I no longer ask for,” he commented.
The monthly expenses for the sheltered animals, the medicine of those who are recovering, and the salaries of the workers consume at least EGP 55,000. While the CART is mainly self-funded, the team carries 90% of these expenses every month, while only 10% comes from donations.
Regarding the donations, the team finds it hard to change people’s perception that donating to save an animal’s life is not as important as it is to save a human being. “We keep asking people to buy us the medicine we need if they don’t trust us enough to donate money. Yet, we end up only receiving support from our very small surrounding friends circle,” Jo said.
Due to limited financial sources, the CART is also struggling with overcrowding in the shelter. The current place in which the animals live consists of a few rooms in a vacant piece of land. The team is fighting to have the financial support that would allow it to build its own hospital, a playground for healthy animals, and an isolation room for animals with infectious diseases.
“Other than the shelter, our own houses are filled with rescued animals. Some of them are kept for medical supervision, and others consider these houses their homes after spending a long time there,” Jo added.
Despite the “chaotic nature” of Jo and his team’s lives, their passion for animals is the spark that keeps them going all the way, fighting against many difficulties in order to save more lives. “Every time we see an animal that’s in agony due to inhuman acts, the rage we feel is the fuel that keeps us insisting on saving others,” he concluded.
Photos Handout to DNE