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Egypt, the noblewoman who fights for cats' and dogs' rights

ANSAmed) - CAIRO, JAN 29 - For 20 years, an Egyptian noblewoman has been a champion for the rights of cats, dogs and donkeys in Egypt, working with one of the few animal rights organisations in a country that uses brutal means to keep the stray population under control.

Amina Abaza belongs to an influential Egyptian family of Circassian origin dating back to the late 18th century.

Her family produced the highest number of nobles in the country from the 19th to the mid-20th century.

"I started a shelter for stray cats, dogs, and donkeys, and an organisation to protect animal rights called SPARE, the first fully Egyptian animal protection society," Abaza told ANSAmed.

The goal of SPARE, whose acronym stands for "Society for the Protection of Animal Rights in Egypt", is to help wounded animals, poisoned dogs and cats, and animals that have been shot by the authorities as part of seasonal culling programmes.

It also seeks to help animals that are abused, tortured and mistreated out of ignorance, poverty or simply for amusement.

"SPARE was founded in 2001," said Abaza.

"A dog that was my friend when I was little used to wait for the school bus with me every day, but then was killed one night.

I heard horrible screaming, and the next day my dog was not there to wait for the bus with me. Her name was 'La plus belle de la terre' (the most beautiful on earth). I think that was the day I decided to do something for animals," she said.

"In two decades, more than 10,000 animals have been helped, treated, spayed and neutered and also sent to Europe for adoption," she said.

"At the moment we have our animal sanctuary at our farm in Sakkara," south of Cairo, she said, adding that it hosts nearly 70 animals including donkeys, dogs, cats, and a camel.

"I adopted them all, because nobody wanted them," she said.

"In our SPARE clinic, we had an abused animal almost daily, having been thrown in a canal, or strangled by children, or the victim of a car accident or sadistic practices," said Abaza, whose family has never had any member hold a role as ruler or president of Egypt, but has been defined by some Egyptian media one of the "families that rule the country".

The Abaza family has also contributed to the modern Arabic intellectual landscape through the works of journalists and political activists.

Abaza said animals are killed in Egypt "because we have rabies, but this is not a reason to kill them savagely with poison or shooting. If the authorities have to kill, they should do it through euthanasia, a gentler way".

"In Egypt there are very few official animal welfare organisations. The registered ones are very few, maybe 10. There are over 50 unregistered NGOs, but not all are good ones because some work only to get donations and they treat the animals badly, starving them, not giving them vaccines or good veterinary care," Abaza said.

She expressed regret regarding adoptions.

"Unfortunately there have not been many. In 19 years, only 2,500 animals have been adopted, because most of our animals are from the streets, not purebred. Most of them were adopted in Holland, Germany and Austria," she said.

When asked about the relationship between her NGO and Italy, she said she remembered one of the SPARE managers.

"A great lady named Egitzia Romeo. She cared for SPARE for 8 years. We all loved her very much and she was an Italian born in Egypt. May she rest in peace".(ANSAmed).

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