Paws and claws: The battle between animal rights activists and a cruel animal shelter in Egypt
A group of animal rights activists in Egypt have accused an unregistered shelter in Saqqara of letting dogs and cats starve and freeze to death as their owners scammed volunteers.
Paws and Claws, not to be mistaken for a pet clinic in Maadi, is a villa in Saqqara that activists say is conning volunteers and robbing donations.
"It's not a licensed shelter! It's not registered and it doesn't have the legal right to operate as a shelter," long-time animal rights activist Rania el-Kordy told Aswat Masriya.
In January, shocking photographs accompanied Kordy's first post on social media where she described in detail the "devastating" conditions and violations she witnessed.
"Diarrhea on the floor, wet blankets and hungry and cold animals without care or water," Kordy described the negligence she saw during her first visit in December to what she described as the "villa of death."
She had decided to visit after receiving a large amount of complaints and pleas to get involved to rescue the animals.
Despite the outrage, Paws and Claws is still running and no real action has been taken against its owners, a 35-year-old Egyptian man and his expat wife.
“If you spray [the owner]* with water, we will spray you with blood," a worker at the self-proclaimed shelter threatened Kordy, who filed her second legal report to the authorities on Sunday.
Even though the owners are supposedly on the run, neighbors have reported seeing them, Kordy said, adding, "I don't know how they can go to sleep at night while the animals are cold and hungry."
Farah Nasser*, also an animal rights activist and volunteer, said that on her last visit on December 25, she saw skins hanging over a fence to dry. "It could have been dog or cat skin," she said.
Nasser added that after donating money for the cats she had brought in to be taken care of, the four of them disappeared. She was told later that they "didn't make it."
The turning point for Nasser however was when a dog named Fighter suddenly died and they were told that another dog known to be aggressive had eaten him.
Similar stories were told by other volunteers who accuse the couple of neglecting the rescued animals.
One volunteer went into shock when she found a puppy on the floor dead and the vet told her he'd been laying there since the morning, Kordy, who was there, said.
Julie Dodd, who was also conned by the couple, said that when she last visited the villa in February, Diane mentioned something to her about "dead cats hanging on their gate" and described it as far-fetched and ridiculous.
Activists say the hanging skins indicate the couple may have been involved in the local skin/fur trade. Aswat Masriya could not verify this allegation.
"I filled in the adoption form and gave PAC £160 ($269) to cover the vaccinations and preparations for travel to the UK," said Dodd about her attempt to adopt three cats she connected with at the villa.
"I had also donated EGP 500 ($72) during my previous trip, but again no receipt. Anyway, I left there having agreed the cats would stay for a week to be vaccinated and neutered and then go to my friend to be fostered until they were ready to travel," she said.
When Dodd's friend went to the villa to pick up the cats however, she was told that they would not be released unless three particular dogs were handed over to Paws and Claws from ESMA (a reputable registered animals' shelter in Shabramant).
Soon afterwards, the three cats disappeared altogether, Dodd said, adding that their whereabouts or what happened to them was never revealed to this day.
Other volunteers have reported that their rescued animals have gone missing as well. Some say the couple tried to give them different animals as their own.
The Facebook group belonging to PAC changed its status from "closed" to "secret" last week and the couple deleted their profiles and created new ones as stories of abuse and negligence surfaced.
Neither one of the couple were available for comment.
By Aswat Masriya