Minister okays shooting stray dogs to stop rabies

Erdan had frozen the permit due to pressure by animal rights groups, but according to a Haaretz, decided to affirm it earlier this week.

April 1, 2010 04:15
2 minute read.
A street dog.

street dog cute 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Facing a rabies outbreak in the North, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has reinstated the Agriculture Ministry regulations permitting Parks Authority inspectors to shoot stray dogs found on nature reserves.

Erdan had frozen the permit due to pressure by animal rights groups, but according to a Haaretz report on Wednesday, decided to affirm it earlier this week.

In the past, the permit to shoot dogs was mostly used to cull the stray dog population, which causes harm to the nature reserves’ ecosystems. However, in recent months, controlling the rabies outbreak has become a top priority.

The number of animals found to be suffering from rabies has increased dramatically over the last year, with most of the cases discovered among domesticated dogs.

Since the beginning of 2010, the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary services identified 17 cases of rabies, higher than the total number of incidents discovered in all of 2008. In 2009, 58 cases of rabies were identified.

According to the veterinary services, between 2003 and 2008, there was a gradual decrease in rabies incidents in the country. In 2003, the ministry identified an outbreak in wild foxes and put a vaccination program in place to eradicate the disease. From 2004 on, the number of rabies cases had gradually decreased – until last year, when the numbers climbed dramatically.

The strain of the virus that is currently affecting Israel appears to be a particularly strong form of the disease, and in at least two cases, it attacked dogs that had been vaccinated against rabies.

A large majority of the identified cases were discovered in the North. The last detected case occurred on March 23 in Safed.

Eti Altman from animal protection group Let the Animals Live said she was saddened by the news.

“The dogs are not to blame; the culprits are irresponsible humans who release their dogs into the wild in order to get rid of them, or don’t vaccinate their dogs to begin with,” she said. “We think that the practice of shooting dogs is reprehensible, especially since they sometimes suffer agony from the bullet wounds for days before dying. We think that a much preferable solution is to trap and vaccinate the dogs, neuter them, and then release them back to the wild.”

According to a Parks Authority spokeswoman, however, the practice of shooting stray dogs is a necessary measure, as trapping the animals is inefficient. She explained that the Parks Authority practiced regular oral vaccination of wild animals by dropping vaccines from the air, but that the method was ineffective on dogs because they would swallow the bait containing the vaccine whole without chewing it, reducing its effect.

“Our goal is to protect the wildlife. Stray dogs present a risk to wild animals, both because of their unnatural presence in the wild, where they diminish the prey available to other carnivores, and now because of the risk of rabies they carry,” said the spokeswoman. “In any case, we do our utmost to make sure the animals don’t suffer and that when shot, they are killed on the spot.”

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