On a sunny farm just outside Kfar Saba, the sweet smell of hay filled the air as
lustrously groomed horses walked about the grounds and heartily chomped on their
The farm, an oasis surrounded by cement walls in an
undisclosed location, houses not only private mares and stallions, but also 15
undergoing rehabilitation through the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals in Israel (SPCA).
Just adjacent to the horses, who intermittently
played with the farm’s resident dogs, a fenced-off corral provides an outdoor
playpen for nine donkeys and four goats from the SPCA.
The animals have
found temporary refuge at this shelter and at two other private farms near
Kiryat Gat and Mount Hermon, while renovations occur at the SPCA stables in
south Tel Aviv.
Afterward, 25 horses and donkeys from the three
facilities will be able to return to Tel Aviv, while the remaining 20 will
In the meantime, the exact locations of the three
shelter farms must remain secret, as the many thieves interested in acquiring
the animals for exploitation and money would target the site and posed a
security threat, SPCA spokesman Gadi Vitner explained.
“All the time they
try – even here [in Tel Aviv] – to break in to steal horses,” he told The
While SPCA has also installed 24-hour
video-cameras on the private shelters where the horses reside, the security is
not nearly as impenetrable as that of the flagship SPCA site in south Tel
There are many SPCA organizations around the country, but have been
unaffiliated with each other since the 1980s.
The Tel Aviv site, the
official SPCA headquarters of Israel, has been operating since 1927 and is the
only one with official ties to the international umbrella
In total, the Tel Aviv SPCA has saved roughly 500 horses,
finding homes for many and ending up forced to put some of them down, according
“Usually, all of these come from abuse,” he said. Primarily,
the horses hail from the streets of Yaffo, Ramle and Lod, where peddlers have
used them, illegally, to haul junk and metal, or sell fruits and
“A horse can work, but give him good treatment,” Vitner
“They come here and they collapse in the stables. They are very
strong, but delicate animals.”
One of the Kfar Saba horses, an elegant
black horse named Madonna, had adopted three other horses into her custody, and
they trailed behind her as she moved from silo to silo and munched on
The horses enjoy two hours of free time in the morning and two hours
again in the evening, when they are free to roam the grounds and eat to their
“The cafeteria is open,” the owner of the farm
The horses sleep outside in the fields during the warmer seasons
and head to the stables when the temperature begins to drop. In one corner of
the field, an emaciated mother and son pair stood bent side-by-side over a
feeding bin, gobbling up their hay.
The owner, who requested anonymity
due to the sensitivity of the location, has been operating the facility for
three years, primarily providing residence and services to privately-owned
horses. He has been associated with the SPCA in one capacity or another over the
On average, the owner explained, it costs about NIS 1,500
per month to feed a horse, NIS 300 per month to care for his nails, NIS 450 per
year to cover dental expenses and NIS 300 per year for vaccines.
current economy such costs have become prohibitive to most people, and it is
therefore increasingly challenging to find homes for the regal animals. One
treatment for colic alone will cost a minimum of NIS 1,500, and surgeries can
reach about NIS 25,000.
“There are people who take them and don’t realize
the responsibility,” the owner said. “It’s not just a dog.”
paying the shelter owners NIS 15,000 per month for the food necessary to nourish
the 15 horses and nine donkeys, according to Vitner.
During a visit to
SPCA headquarters that morning, prior to tour of the Kfar Saba farm, Vitner
showed the Post the site for the new stables, in the middle of the fortified
The old stables had not undergone renovation in six years and
contained completely dilapidated feeding sheds, many of which were filled at the
moment from floor to ceiling with sacks of cat kibble.
Nearby the stables
were about 150 dogs, of all shapes and sizes, that had been rescued from the
streets, barking at passersby from their cages.
“It’s a jail,” Vitner
said, noting that five dogs had arrived at the center that morning alone.
“They’re not supposed to be there. They’re not criminals.” Adjacent to the dog
kennels are cubicles filled with cats, as well as a fenced-in zone with quacking
ducks, roosters and even a peacock.
After morning tours of both the SPCA
headquarters in south Tel Aviv and the shelter near Kfar Saba, Vitner brought
the Post on a driving tour through Yaffo to see if any illegal horse operators
were peddling in the streets.
While riding horses and operating
horse-drawn carts or carriages is illegal in the city of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, the law
is not always effectively enforced, Vitner explained.
Not only did the
odyssey lead to a horse sighting, but attached to the horse was a carriage with
two passengers who were racing the horse down the seaside street and laughing
all the while.
“We stopped calling the city – we call the police,” Vitner
One of the 15 horses in Kfar Saba, a gray beauty named Olive, has
already found a home, but the others remain in jeopardy as SPCA workers struggle
to find them caretakers.
“The bottom line is we need help from the
public,” Vitner said.