Shifra Hoffman’s sign says it all: “A dog is a man’s best friend, and a terrorist’s worse enemy.”
Holding the placard in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Thursday night, the founder and director of Victims Against Arab Terror International said she arranged a protest there because she believes that highly-trained defense dogs are needed in the war on terror.
“Since the so-called ‘peace process’ [Oslo], there have been more than 2,000 Israelis murdered and over 6,000 injured... and this has to stop,” she said.
“We are asking that the government funds the dog defense program – there should be dogs patrolling everywhere to let the Arabs know that if they are going to [carry out an attack] that the dogs are not afraid.”
Hoffman, an energetic octogenarian, said she wants all Israelis who live in fear to have a dog to protect their homes, or walk with them on the streets.
“We want to get as many dogs as we can get, wherever they’re needed,” she said. “At the central bus station we did a patrol and people were grabbing our fliers. They were so thankful that maybe there’s a solution, because they’re afraid to go out; they’re afraid to do anything.”
She added: “These are not attack dogs, they’re defense dogs, because attackers attack, these dogs defend.”
Indeed, according to Mike Ben Yaakov, commander of the Israel Dog Unit, an NGO funded by private donors, the dogs have prevented thousands of attacks across the country since the program was launched 16 years ago.
“We’ve been providing security dogs for families and security personnel in Judea and Samaria, in Jerusalem, the Negev and the Galilee,” said Ben Yaakov, as trainers displayed several of the muzzled dogs for curious onlookers.
“We have dogs everywhere there is a great need for added security, and train people how to use them properly.”
To date, Ben Yaakov said he has placed over 300 dogs across the country, and presently has 65 canines undergoing training.
“The problem is that we have dozens of people who have asked us for dogs who are in a very rough situation, where they feel they are in danger,” he said.
“For example, the Ariel family, whose daughter, Hallel was recently murdered, called me last night saying, ‘We didn’t get a dog in time, can you get us a dog now?’” Ben Yaakov said most requests in Jerusalem have come from Jewish families living in the Old City, Ein Kerem, Kiryat Moshe, the City of David, Silwan, Givat Shaul, and Ras el-Amud.
“We have had requests from people whose homes have been broken into, and they are frightened,” he said.
“Right now we have 40 families who are on a waiting list. We’ve given out over a dozen dogs over the last month, but we simply don’t have the resources to train more.”
He noted that it can cost as much as NIS 20,000 to train one of the dogs – primarily Malinois, Belgium Shepherds and German Shepherds – and up to NIS 40,000 to buy a trained adult canine.
“We want to say to the prime minister: Look, you’re not doing your job, the government is not doing [its] job,” he said. “People are being murdered almost every day in Israel, and dogs can be an effective means to provide security. If you are unwilling to unleash the IDF or Israeli Police to do more, at least support civilians that have an effective tool to prevent terrorism.”
Ben Yaakov said his organization needs at least NIS 4 million to train the number of dogs being requested by Israelis across the country, adding it can take up to a year and a half to train each one.
“Our focus has been Judea and Samaria, but unfortunately, more and more people in major cities are calling us now and saying they need added security,” he said.
One elderly man observing the intimidating dogs on display, who requested anonymity, said he lives alone, and would indeed feel safer with one in his home.
“I can’t defend myself anymore,” he said, “so if I could have one of them, I would be less afraid.”