Meet Amina El Shazly, co-founder of Leaf Animals with Tanya El Kashef. Amina completed her master’s on Egyptian Baladi dogs in 2019 and soon after Leaf Animals was launched. Leaf animals is a website based in Egypt working on find homes for animals in need. Amina spoke to C-Town Chatter about the website, the future aspiration for it, the stray animals’ current situation in Egypt, and a lot of other stuff that we would love to share with you.
Amina, what gave you the idea to start Leaf Animals?
The overgrowing population of animals in shelters, in streets, and in homes was one of the main reasons that made me take this step. Also, when someone wanted to put up an animal for adoption, they usually had to go for Facebook because it’s the only online platform where you can find animals for adoption and as you know it’s so unorganized, and if someone wants to adopt an animal, he will have to go through every Facebook page to see if there’s any animal available to adopt. And of course, most of the animals posted online are rescued animals with unattractive clear photos of them which can be not enticing enough for people to go through the process of adoption, even though every animal deserves to have a loving home. So I told myself why not create a website regrouping all the animals ready to adopt with standards to assure every animal gets the home he deserves.
What was the main goal behind creating LF?
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First things first, we wanted to help animals, but we also wanted to help people help animals. So if someone wants to put an animal up for adoption, they will just have to fill the form online and we will filter out those that don’t match our standards and tell them what to do exactly to be accepted.
Also, it’s not just an adoption website. We also seek to help shelters and welfare organizations to help them save more animals by helping them fundraise.
Can anyone post on the website?
Yes, anyone can post on it but they would have to fill a form to create a profile for their animal and they will have to answer some questions regarding the animal’s age, if he’s good with the kids, if he’s good with other animals to facilitate the access to information for people seeking to adopt. Our users must also add images because images are very important when people lookup for an animal to adopt. Everyone wants to adopt an animal that looks good, that’s why we have strict standards regarding the images to assure a pure good quality.
Are your services 100% free?
Our services are currently for free and hopefully, they will continue to be like that.
I was going through the website and saw that it’s not just an adoption site. What others services do you offer?
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Yes, it’s not just an adoption website; you can also put animals up for fostering or sponsoring.
We have friends who are shelters and organizations we want to help and we have partners as well and they are organizations that are offering services like vets, pets’ accessories, animal training, and others.
What do you think of the shelters in Egypt, are they doing enough?
Some of them are doing totally enough. Although some shelters focus on the number of animals they will rescue; some for example set a goal to save 5 animals per, in the long run, these 5 dogs become 1000 which is too much to take care of.
Some shelters have 5000 animals under their roof, others have 3000. The latter will be more focused and committed to actually help them, especially with the limited resources and workers. Don’t forget that animals need food, water, medicaments, and someone to take care of them. It also matters if the shelters give each animal its own kennel because it’s so important that each animal has its own space and own resting time to not be caused by the stress that emerges from all animals live together. That’s why we choose organizations that have animals that are really cared for to be our friends.
Another thing, shelters in Egypt are actually rescued organizations. They only work with severely hurt or abused animals. That’s why when people call them to save an animal that can be poisoned or if someone can’t just keep their animal and tell them to come to get them, they often refuse because they can’t take more animals that will probably be “thrown away”, so they just focus on the rescue part.
Do you think people realize that the donations the organizations and shelters need aren’t only for animals, that other facilities need financing too?
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No, I don’t think so unfortunately because people actually start to donate when shelters post photos online with severely injured animals or an animal with an amputated leg. They don’t realize that the shelter needs maintenance and that aside from the rescuing part; they have workers that need to get paid for their services and that there are bills that need to be paid: water bills, electricity bills, and rent. So shelters rely on the “Save Us” kind of tone to get people to donate. That’s why we try to help shelters as much as possible because we are aware that a lot of people are not aware of all of this and a really small portion of people donate regularly.
That’s why more than sponsoring the animal itself, we need to sponsor the shelters and donate to them constantly because at the end of the day people think that the shelter’s job is that when we contact them to pick up an animal, they respond on the spot and when the shelters tell them: “ We are sorry we don’t have enough space or we don’t have enough money.” People start criticizing them for not taking the animals in; people just can’t seem to realize that this isn’t their actual job and that most shelters are created by normal people that take care of them in their free time and suddenly it becomes full of animals with several needs to provide and on top of all of that, no donations are coming in or a social media platform to help them keep track of every animal coming in or leaving or even encouraging people to offer a home for some.
You told me earlier that the services you offer are 100% free but don’t you think if you added a small amount of money to each post, for example, it will be better in the long run?
Actually, when we launched we said that we’re still in the beta phase, so everything is not complete. I just wanted to launch it to continue working on the actual project then expand and get more help. Shortly, we will actually do paid annual memberships and when money will start coming in we will give a part of the profits to shelters and welfare organizations. So you will donate to Leaf Animals’ friends and get perks at the same time. We are also thinking about providing different paid services like social media logo creation, all in hopes of helping organizations relying on donations and help fundraise for TNR programs.
Do you think that the government is doing anything to help?
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No, I believe there must be some money going straight to animal welfare societies. They should help them financially because it’s the area where they need the help the most. There’s a problem as well with the veterinary medical authority that poisons stray dogs. The government should talk more about the TNR method as a resolution for the stray dogs’ problem.
One of our friends is a TNR initiative. They trap stray animals then castrate and vaccinate them as part of the Neutering phase then return them another time to where they belong. So in that way, the dogs or cats population won’t grow, and the ones already existing will be vaccinated and safe to the people around them. I think this is the best option the government can opt for.
We see a similar problem to the veterinary doctors poisoning animals; dogs get poisoned in compounds and streets almost every day. What can we do to make those in charge realize that this is unacceptable?
I think the original problem is with people who complain about stray animals because, at the end of the day, dogs are territorial, pack, and social animals. They need to stick together and they think that they always need to protect their territory. So when they see someone walking in the streets late at night, they start barking like crazy. So this person walking should be more educated that they don’t want to hurt him, they’re simply protecting their territory and if the dog is familiar with you, he won’t even do the barking bit let alone hurt you.
I know of course that some people really get scared and it’s completely normal but that’s why the compound administration or the administration responsible for any area can consecrate a small amount of money to TNR the animals living in their area.
Result: the animals will feel safe and accepted and no animal from outside can get in because they need to protect their territory which is the compound or the street and at the same time, they will be vaccinated. Even in the worst-case scenario, if they bit anyone, we will know that this animal is vaccinated and safe because stray dogs and cats still need to live in the streets and they like living in the streets.
They spend all of their lives in the streets and they prefer the freedom that comes with it. So from our end, we should use a bit of logic more than emotions and not call shelters or welfare organizations to just take them because at the end of the day they are rescue organizations, and I insist on calling them that because they take in injured or hurt animal and return them to the streets when they heal or keep them for adoption but it’s not their job to take a healthy happy animal for his normal habitat because someone thinks it’s better for him.
I read that your study was about Baladi dogs, which is super interesting, do people have misconceptions about Baladi dogs?
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Yes, of course, a lot of people say that Baladi dogs are not smart or not pretty enough but the truth is when people say something a lot, they get used to it and they stop seeing it as something precious.
That’s why a lot of people choose to buy dogs with 5000 pounds or even 50,000 pounds because they think it’s better to buy a dog that looks good.
Another thing, a lot of people think that the colored dogs in the streets are a breed of Baladi and husky dogs but it’s pure Baladi; dogs’ DNA is as diverse as humans, that’s why they’re there is a lot of variety in street dogs but in the last seven years I think it got better.
People are starting to accept the beautifulness, the intelligence of Baladi dogs, and their aptitude to learn and be trained.
For example we at, Leaf animals, have a partner, Hound Charming, that offers a force-free training program which is one of a kind in Egypt. They teach people that it’s possible to not use the Alpha theory to teach their dogs something. Most people count on making their dogs feel that they are the superior so that the dog starts to get afraid and behave in fear of being hurt but with the force-free method, there’s no yelling, no punishment, no disturbing ways to teach the dog a certain thing like making him smell his pee or lock him up in a room to make him stop a certain behavior. We really want to change the community’s idea of animal raising.
That’s why when someone adopts from our website; we give him a discount at Hound Charming to assure that the animal will get force-free training that won’t cause him any distress. Animals are just like babies so why not teach them step by step through scientific methods as we do with babies?
Force-free methods will facilitate a lot of things for the animal and for the human, won’t they?
It will require some patience but we will finally stop seeing the horrible things we see online. I saw a video online a couple of weeks ago of a dog that was getting his nails cut at the vet and was screaming just like a human being from how terrified he was, and people actually were seeing this as cute and were laughing while filming it. It’s not, and that’s why the dog needs to have consent training and to have autonomy over his body. The dog that was screaming in the video was actually traumatized by what he has been through and that’s why if he was trained that he has autonomy over his body, it won’t be the same. And he also needs to be reinforced all the time to feel engaged to actually go through this. They too need appraisals just like we get a salary every month for our effort.
Another thing, people don’t pay attention to is the collars or the harness that they use to keep the dog from running or to avoid that the dog pulls away. They need to give some freedom from time to time to not feel like a prisoner.
What is the next step for Leaf Animals?
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I actually want to help shelters by launching annual memberships. I also want to create more awareness about a lot of things and against a lot of things like Breeding.
If you have a dog for example and you gave him up for adoption, it’s amazing that you did though but you will have to also be sure that this animal won’t be a victim of breeding. Also, people who keep the puppies that have just been born to be mated with their mother later on since it’s their normal right to mate just like us will affect their offspring in a couple of generations. So in all cases, backyard breeding or responsible breeding both are very dangerous for animals. The perfect example of that is the French bulldog; this dog has to spend his life with breathing problems because of his airways being blocked due to his flat face that is 100% ethically wrong.
And that’s my main goal, I want Leaf Animals to be a platform of education and to stop all the normalized behaviors that are completely wrong. Another thing I see almost every day is huskies that were created to live in the polar regions but are living in a lot of homes in Egypt with its weather that can easily cause the dog a heatstroke that can lead to death and when you tell someone that this isn’t right and they need to live like they were created to do so, they all say the silly excuse of “he’s always sit in air-conditioned places” which is still wrong because it’s outside of his normal habitat
Also, the last thing I want for Leaf Animals is to be in English and in Arabic I started with the English version but I hope it will be in Arabic and reach beyond Egypt and other countries in the region because everyone needs to know that these animals aren’t just pets they are non-human animals that have emotions and that they are family members.
A curious soul with a lot to say.