Dogs are known to be man’s best friend and the number of people owning dogs in Israel increases every year, yet there are many more dogs than there are families wanting them.
Despite campaigns to encourage spaying and neutering, the municipal pound and shelters are full of dogs needing homes and on occasion, when they get too full and feel that there is no alternative, the municipal pound euthanizes dogs.
However, a recent incident in Jerusalem that aroused fury among dog lovers and animal organizations has prompted MK Itzik Shmuli of the Zionist Union party to convene a special meeting of the Sub-Committee for Cruelty towards Animals during the Knesset recess.
The incident, first published on MyNet Jerusalem (which also shows a video of what transpired), involves an inspector of the Jerusalem Veterinary Service (part of the Jerusalem Municipality) who stopped beside a street dog and her puppies. He took the puppies away from the mother, ignoring her crying and the requests of a person heard in the video pleading with him to take the mother as well. Moreover, the puppies were euthanized immediately, in contravention of the law, which requires a waiting period of at least 10 days before a dog can be euthanized.
Unsurprisingly, the Jerusalem Veterinary Service has borne the brunt of public ire and horror at this incident.
In response to this incident, Shmuli told MyNet Jerusalem that he intended to convene a special meeting of the sub-committee and that he wrote to the Agriculture Ministry, which is responsible for the municipal veterinary services, demanding that the person responsible be fired for this “serious incident that led to the unnecessary death of innocent puppies.”
Shmuli seeks to “tighten the procedures concerning the municipal veterinary services to prevent similar incidents.”
The ministry announced that it has opened an investigation into the incident and will not hesitate to take action if the Veterinary Service was negligent.
In answer to my request from the Jerusalem Municipality (under whose auspices the Jerusalem Veterinary Service functions), the Jerusalem Municipality Spokesman’s Department responded, “In the absence of Israel’s local authorities dealing with the issue of stray dogs in the areas surrounding the city, hundreds of wild dogs penetrate the seam-line neighborhoods endangering the health and safety of the residents.
“In the area where the female dog was located, many complaints had been received from residents afraid of the stray dogs. On Friday, the Veterinary Service inspectors located the puppies with the intention of transferring them and the mother dog to the municipal pound. Regrettably, the mother dog did not permit us to get close to her and as the inspectors are not permitted to use sedation darts, it was impossible to also transfer her to the municipal pound.
“The puppies were transferred to the municipal pound as hundreds of other puppies are each year, and after being treated and vaccinated, they find adoptive homes. Sadly, the puppies were found to be too young to survive as they were unable to eat by themselves and therefore we were forced to euthanize them.
“The Veterinary Service is currently completing the process of receiving the necessary permits to train an animal control unit that will be assisted by tranquilizer darts, a tool which will enable them to catch the mother and the puppies in similar cases in the future.
“While this incident is heartbreaking and tragic, it must be noted that the Jerusalem Veterinary Service works in close conjunction with animal organizations to find homes for as many animals as possible.
One such non-profit organization with which it works closely is Jerusalem Loves Animals. Founded in 2010 by Hedva Vandenbrook, a social worker by profession, the organization endeavors to find homes, mainly for dogs and cats, and has also been known to save an occasional horse and donkey.
JLA holds adoption days every Friday at the Black Horse Park. Inspectors from the Jerusalem Veterinary Service bring dogs for adoption from the municipal pound. JLA also looks for foster homes for dogs in order to get them out of the municipal shelter and used to living in a home, which is a better environment for them and also likely to help them get adopted, as they will be more used to a home environment.
Since its inception eight years ago, approximately 2,000 animals have been adopted through JLA.Vandenbrook refers to the close work that the organization carries out with the Jerusalem Veterinary Service and to the tragic incident itself.
“The veterinary service headed by Assaf Brill makes every effort not to euthanize animals, with a particular emphasis on dogs.
During the past two years, no healthy dog has been euthanized and great effort has been made to treat injured dogs and cats to save them and find them homes. Authorities endeavor to place stray kittens that are still being nursed with their nursing mothers; foster families are provided with Materna [baby food] in order to feed the kittens. Kittens are placed for adoption only after they have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated.”
Vandenbrook adds, “The Jerusalem Veterinary Service cultivates close cooperation with non-profit organizations in and outside of Jerusalem to find adoptive homes. It responds to requests to save animals in distress, even in difficult and hostile areas. As the representative of JLA, I am delighted and proud to live in a city where the Veterinary Service (of which I was so scared in my youth) excels and serves as a refuge for animals in distress. Jerusalem should serve as a model for the rest of Israel.
“Regarding the incident concerning the mother dog and her puppies, although I am deeply pained and troubled by this tragedy, I know that the Veterinary Service staff are also troubled by this incident and have learned the necessary lessons. In the near future, I intend to meet with them and discuss the problematic topic of stray dogs, which cannot be spayed and returned to the streets as cats can. On one hand, many residents complain about packs of dogs, which they claim are dangerous and a nuisance in the seam-line neighborhoods. On the other hand, animal organizations request assistance regarding abandoned puppies that fill up the cages of the veterinary service.
“We are attempting to develop a humane solution to address the problem and beseech caring residents who are concerned about the plight of the dogs to foster or adopt them and donate to animal organizations, which work solely off donations.”
If you are interested in helping to save a life by adopting or fostering a dog or donating, check out the Jerusalem Loves Animals Facebook page or contact Hedva Vandenbrook at 054-945-4225.
In addition, you can visit them at their Adoption Days every Friday at the Black Horse Park on King George Avenue from noon to 3 p.m.