Calling the conditions at the Jerusalem Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter "bordering on actual abuse," the municipality has issued an order forbidding residents to bring animals to the Atarot facility. "A harsh picture arose from an investigation by the municipal veterinary services during which it became clear that the animals at the shelter are in severely crowded conditions and extremely poor sanitary conditions bordering on actual abuse," said municipal spokesman Gideon Schmerling. "The situation even raises a fear for the health and welfare of the animals. Animals at the facility are held in dirty, crowded cages among piles of garbage and filth." The municipality circulated pictures showing cats and dogs in crowded conditions. The city invited the public to hand over stray animals to the city's two-year-old shelter or to other non-profits that care for strays "after checking out the facility's conditions." Chaya Beilei, manager of the JSPCA shelter and clinic, which care for 250 dogs and 50 cats, said the photos show them from angles that misrepresent the actual conditions at the shelter. "The pictures were taken from behind where the dogs live, so it looks like they live in tiny little cages. These cages lead out into a big yard. They don't live here for 10 days, we keep them for six months to a year," she said. "We keep the dogs for as long as we can to try to give them a chance to find new homes." Beilei further charged that the city had been carrying out a vindictive campaign against the JSPCA shelter. In February, the city vet poisoned two escaped dogs belonging to one of the shelter's volunteers. One of the dogs died of the strychnine poisoning and the other, which survived, was taken to the municipality's animal shelter. When the volunteer, at the time decidedly distressed, went to the city shelter to collect his dog, he had an altercation with city veterinarian Zohar Dvorkin. Until then, she said, the JSPCA and the city's services had always been on good terms. "We should be working together and we always did [in the past]," she said. Before the incident, claimed Beilei, the JSPCA vets even spayed cats from the municipal shelter before they were given out for adoption. But after the February incident, Dvorkin told Beilei that the city would not cooperate with the JSPCA while the volunteer was still working there, she said. Though she admitted the municipality is legally entitled to forbid the public to bring animals to the shelter, "we can't allow an outside organization to come to us and say, 'This person can volunteer and this person can't volunteer.' "They're really angry. They want to close us down," she concluded.

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