Dogs are man's best friend, especially amid COVID-19

The pandemic has implications for animals, too

RUFI AND a volunteer. An injured rescue, he is now fully healed and eagerly awaiting a new home. (photo credit: TNU LECHAYOT LEHIYOT – LET THE ANIMALS LIVE)
RUFI AND a volunteer. An injured rescue, he is now fully healed and eagerly awaiting a new home.
(photo credit: TNU LECHAYOT LEHIYOT – LET THE ANIMALS LIVE)
It goes without saying that the past year has been extremely bizarre, full of upheaval and uncertainty for so many. However, despite the trials and tribulations, animals – particularly dogs – provide a source of support and joy now more than ever.
It is no coincidence that dog adoptions have increased, with many people taking advantage of the extended time at home to welcome a new furry friend into their lives by either adopting or fostering them.
As a result, the numbers of dogs in shelters actually decreased during the months of lockdown with people queueing up to take pooches home – a phenomenon that occurred both worldwide and in Israel. Cuddling an adorable creature or having a valid reason to go out and walk them can only be a good thing!
Jerusalem Loves Animals, an animal rescue group that doesn’t have a shelter of its own but works to find homes for dogs and cats from the Jerusalem Municipal Shelter (two of my dogs were adopted from here), reported that between 30 and 40 dogs were adopted during the lockdown period, with many dogs being fostered as well. While fostering is not permanent unless a dog becomes a foster “fail” (as was the case with one of my dogs!), fostering has many benefits for both people and dogs. It is an ideal solution for people who are unable to commit to a dog in the long term or want to foster one before deciding whether to adopt, with the rescue paying for the veterinary care and food.
Fostering is also beneficial for canines, as it gets them out of the shelter and gives them an opportunity to get used to living in a home with a family, ultimately increasing their chances of being adopted.
Another Jerusalem-based animal organization that also saw a spike in adoptions during the corona period was the Jerusalem Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA). The JSPCA has a shelter at Atarot that houses both dogs and cats and is normally bursting at the seams. They tend not to offer the opportunity to foster dogs unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as a pup needing to be trained before it can be adopted, but their focus is on getting them adopted. During the lockdown period, they had 80 adoptions, with people coming from all over Israel to adopt – including from a kibbutz up north. People were able to make an appointment in advance to come and adopt a dog even during the quarantine period. Bar a few days here and there, people were coming to the shelter regularly with a view to adopting.
The majority of dogs being adopted were big dogs between the ages of three and five, but so many dogs were adopted in March that the shelter ran out of small dogs to be adopted!
AS PEOPLE are spending so much time at home, this is an ideal time to work on training your dog. Depending on your pet's temperament, age and physical stamina and your level of motivation (most trainers will tell you that it is more often a case of training the owner than the dog!), there are many forms of training suitable for your dog.
THIS IS an ideal time to work on training your dog. (Photo credit: David Cohen)THIS IS an ideal time to work on training your dog. (Photo credit: David Cohen)
For the more active dogs and owners, there is agility training, which requires your dog to master obstacles such as crawling through tunnels or jumping over planks and barrels. While the Israeli Dog Training and Agility Club activities are based in Rishon Lezion, Jerusalemites can train their dogs in local parks or even create a small-scale obstacle course at home. This is a great way for your pooch to burn off energy and to build a closer human-animal relationship. While the largest Jerusalem dog park in Gan Sacher has sadly been closed and the two smaller dog parks promised have yet to be built there (a memorial to those who died in the Siege of Leningrad during World War II was erected there), there are quite a few other dog parks in the capital in neighborhoods such as Talbiyeh, Arnona, Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramat Denya.
For the less energetic dogs (and owners), more low-key training in the guise of teaching your dogs tricks is a great way of using extra time at home. While it is important to teach your dog the basics such as sit, stay and come, depending on your level of motivation and enthusiasm, you can also teach your pet to play dead, roll over and go through your legs. You might not discover that your dog is likely to be the next contender on a canine reality show, but it is a fun way to challenge your dog both mentally and physically (particularly with the motivation of tasty treats) and to amuse yourself in a manner that doesn’t involve computer screens!
GIVING A pooch a walk and a lift outside the Old City’s Jaffa Gate in May. (Photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)GIVING A pooch a walk and a lift outside the Old City’s Jaffa Gate in May. (Photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Although we are still enjoying the winter sun of December, these activities will be ideal for the cold, harsh months of the typical Jerusalem winter.
DOGS ARE purported to be man’s best friend and while thankfully there are many people who do love animals of all shapes and sizes, sadly there are also those who abuse and/or neglect animals for a variety of reasons. While Israel has many dog and cat lovers, the phenomena of animal abuse and neglect also exist here and has increased during corona times.
One of the most chilling recent cases garnering widespread public attention was in September of this year, where a man in Bat Yam documented himself hitting and dragging his dog with a view to sending it to his ex-girlfriend as a form of retribution for breaking up with him. Fortunately, the dog was rescued in a live video that went viral and has since been adopted by a new family, while his previous owner has been charged with animal abuse.
The Animal Welfare (Animal Protection Law) of 1994 is the main law regulating the treatment and care of animals in Israel. It prohibits cruelty to animals, including organized animal fights. The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for implementing the law, while the Environmental Protection Ministry is authorized to appoint Animal Welfare Trustees with the authority to file complaints against offenders. The law is enforced by the Israel Police and by the legally appointed official in the Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Services, who will confiscate the animal if appropriate.
In certain cases, veterinarians or inspectors from the local authority can confiscate the animal if they have the jurisdiction to do so (this isn’t the case in the majority of instances). If an animal is confiscated, it must be transferred to an Agriculture Ministry “safe facility” and according to the Animal Welfare Law must be reported to the person in charge. The owner of the confiscated animal is entitled to submit an application to the person in charge or the courts to receive the animal back.
The Animal Welfare law requires owners to feed their pets regularly, ensure they have enough drinking water and shelter from the cold and heat, and provide medical care, including immunization and spaying or neutering. Owners are also required to walk their dogs. Abandoning an animal is also considered animal abuse.
Yet despite the law, in practice punishments are rarely enforced against animal abusers and confusion and chaos reign over implementation of the law and which government body is responsible for enforcing it.
At an October meeting of the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, data presented by the Knesset’s Research and Information Center noted that the Agriculture Ministry has appointed only six inspectors to oversee enforcement of the law. While 90 vets have received training from the Agriculture Ministry, only 16 of them are locally authorized to issue fines for violations.
Research reveals that 82% of the animal cruelty cases opened were closed mainly due to inability to identify the offender or lack of evidence. Only 6% of cases were transferred to the State Prosecutor’s Office or the Claims department while another 5% of cases were closed by judicial rulings. Three percent of cases are still being investigated and another 3% are in the process of being closed. Between 2015 and 2018, approximately 30 indictments were filed each year, with 61 being filed in 2019. Since 2015, 84 cases resulted in a prison sentence, 114 in a suspended sentence and 71 cases in a fine.
 ETI ALTMAN, founder and spokeswoman of Tnu LeChayot Lehiyot (Let the Animals Live) who has been involved in animal welfare for 35 years, said that while violence toward animals has increased, a reflection of the growth in general violence in society, there is also an increased public awareness, outrage and publication of such incidents. During the recent incident in Bat Yam, hundreds of people were waiting outside the dog’s home to see him safely removed.  
According to Altman, there is far too little enforcement of those charged with abusing or neglecting animals and the confusion over which government body is responsible does little to aid enforcement of the law. The vast majority of the public, myself included, would contact the municipal veterinary services of the city they reside in by dialing 106, as I have done several times. However, this is where problems arise. If the animal is going to be seized, it needs to be seized by the Israel Police on behalf of the Agriculture Ministry or its inspectors. If the animal is incorrectly seized by the veterinary service of the relevant city, it can be returned to its owner, as happens all too frequently. The scenario of animals being returned to their abusive or neglectful owners is made more common and complicated by the fact that Israeli law currently regards animals as the property of their owners.
If a member of the public encounters or suspects animal abuse or neglect, the correct procedure is to contact the Agriculture Ministry hotline at *9096, via Whatsapp at 050-518-7720, or by sending an email to Moked_mivzahim@moag.gov.il with as much information as possible, including details of the location and video footage or audio recordings if they exist. In non-urgent cases, it is preferable to contact them in writing. The hotline will assign a number to each incident, which will then be transferred to the relevant people in the ministry’s Central Unit for Enforcement and Investigation.
The public can also contact “HaBulldogim” (The Bulldogs) unit of Let the Animals Live on *3703, which was set up in conjunction with animal activists Mishel Taroni and Dennis Charkov following the incident in Bat Yam where they rescued the dog. They will then file a complaint with the Agriculture Ministry. As Yael Arkin, CEO of Let the Animals Live, stated, “The public turns to us because it does not know who to turn to. The situation as it is presented by the head of the Control of Plants and Animals Unit is far from the reality. I file dozens of complaints a month. They are obligated to give me a claim number. I was informed of the closure of three of the 100 cases that had been submitted. There is great chaos and it is the animals who suffer with it.”
Moreover, the phenomenon of animal theft in Israel is also on the increase, a devastating situation for both pets and their owners, many of whom regard them as members of the family. While dogs are the most likely animals to be stolen, cats, donkeys and horses can also be victims of theft. Dogs are the most likely to be stolen due to the ease in stealing them if they are tied up outside a shop or left in a garden. They are sometimes used for dog-fighting, either as bait or to participate in the dog fights, a cruel and illegal sport that unfortunately is also a money-maker due to people betting on it.
Purebred, and in particular small ones, are likely to be stolen in order to be sold, as people are sometimes prepared to pay thousands of shekels for them. In order to reduce the chances of your beloved family pet being stolen, ensure they have a microchip with your up-to-date details registered with your local veterinary service (where applicable and required by law for dogs) and a collar with your phone number on it in case they go missing. Never leave them unattended in a garden, your car (which can also be dangerous for dogs as they can easily overheat) or outside a store, where they can be stolen in a matter of seconds. I never leave my dogs unattended – they are either with me or at home. It is also a good idea to have recent photos of your pets and ensure their medical records are updated.
FORTUNATELY, AS is the case with the dog from Bat Yam, many abused pets who have been confiscated go on to find warm and loving homes with new owners, although there are still too many in shelters waiting for new homes.
Let the Animals Live also has an animal shelter where dogs and cats eagerly await their forever homes. Three such dogs desperately wanting to leave the overcrowded shelter are Gat, Penny and Amram. Gat succeeded in escaping after his ears were cut and he suffered terrible abuse. He was then hit by a car while escaping and his legs were broken. After a long rehabilitation, Gat is able to walk again and is ready to find the loving home that he so truly deserves.
THE HANDSOME Gat is now fully recovered from his injuries and ready for a caring owner. (Photo credit: Tnu LeChayot LeHiyot – Let the Animals Live) THE HANDSOME Gat is now fully recovered from his injuries and ready for a caring owner. (Photo credit: Tnu LeChayot LeHiyot – Let the Animals Live)
Penny had a wire tied tightly around her neck that almost strangled her to death and was skin and bones. She miraculously managed to escape two years ago and despite her previous trauma, is a charming and delicate dog who is waiting for a new beginning. Amram’s back was burnt by someone and while his sad eyes reveal the suffering he has been through, he is a loving dog who eagerly awaits a new home and some much-deserved happiness.
While animal abuse is of course a terrible phenomenon that needs to be eradicated through enforcement and education, it is also important to remember that there is increasing awareness of the issue and there are plenty of good and caring people working to prevent it, whether through legislation, reporting or by giving an animal a loving home.
For a variety of reasons, not everyone is in a position to adopt or foster an animal, but even if you can’t, you can still help by donating old sheets and blankets to animal shelters to keep the animals warm in winter, putting out water for street cats and keeping an eye out for any animals that appear to be abused or neglected and reporting it.
If you would like to adopt an animal and change their lives and yours, check out dogs and cats awaiting adoption on their website at www.letlive.org.il or contact Hedva at Jerusalem Loves Animals at 054-945-4225 or through their Facebook page; or the JSPCA at (02) 585-4465 or through their Facebook page – the JSPCA.
If you have encountered animal cruelty or neglect, please contact the Agriculture Ministry at *9096, via Whatsapp at 050-518-7720 or by sending an email to Moked_mivzahim@moag.gov.il; or Let the Animals Live at *3703.


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