Animal rights groups get ministry to shelve stray dog shootings in Beit Shemesh

Under pressure, the Agriculture Ministry has postponed plans to shoot feral dogs that have been roaming the streets of Israeli town.

THESE DOGS were among the 67 rescued (photo credit: YOAV BEN-DOV)
THESE DOGS were among the 67 rescued
(photo credit: YOAV BEN-DOV)
Amid severe pressure from animal rights activists, the Agriculture Ministry has postponed plans to shoot feral dogs that have been roaming the streets of Beit Shemesh.
Activists and legislators across the political spectrum have reacted with fury over the past few days, after the Beit Shemesh Municipality announced, via Facebook, that officials would soon begin shooting the city’s increasingly erratic population of wild canines. The shootings, according to the Monday evening Facebook post, were scheduled to take place from 3 to 7 a.m. as part of an “extensive campaign against the phenomenon of stray dogs.”
“Following a number of serious incidents in which abandoned and wandering dogs became wild and attacked and injured residents to the point of mortal danger, the Agriculture Ministry acceded to the municipality’s requests and permitted its Central Investigation and Enforcement Unit to shoot the dogs with shotguns,” the post said.
Members of Justice for All – a new political party whose platform revolves around animal rights – immediately submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice against the agriculture minister and the mayor of Beit Shemesh, demanding that the planned activities be prohibited. On Tuesday, the court accepted the petition and issued an interim order requiring the respondents to clarify, within 48 hours, whether the shootings would be implemented on a one-time basis or as a continual practice.
A spokeswoman for the ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the shootings had not yet begun, due to the High Court petition, adding that no activity would occur until the follow-up hearing.
Although the shootings may now be on hold, the Beit Shemesh Facebook announcement stressed that such activity is permitted under the Rabies Ordinance. The planned killings were supposed to be implemented by “skilled snipers” of the ministry’s Central Investigation and Enforcement Unit, the post added.
“Residents are asked to make sure that their dogs do not go wandering alone,” the municipality warned.
In an interview with Channel 2 on Tuesday, Dr. Maya Kimchi, Beit Shemesh municipal veterinarian, defended the decision to advance the shooting plans, noting that the city has been trying to catch many of the feral dogs by means of anesthetization for six months already.
“The situation in Beit Shemesh is difficult,” Kimchi told Channel 2. “Last week, two people were injured by the same dogs and needed medical treatment. This is the activity of the Agriculture Ministry, not ours. When there is a suspicion of rabies, the bar also rises.”
Immediately following Monday’s Facebook announcement, angry commenters took to the municipality’s page, slamming the city’s leadership for the plans. Reactions continued to flow in two days later, with the post building up more than 1,400 comments by Wednesday afternoon.
Late Tuesday night, Sarah Netanyahu weighed in on the prime minister’s Facebook account, writing a public message to Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.
“I ask you to do everything in your power to prevent the shooting of dogs that is planned to take place in Beit Shemesh,” she wrote. “I am convinced that through an effort combining sensitivity and professionalism, other ways of maintaining public health can be found.”
On Wednesday morning, Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel opened the Knesset Economic Committee meeting by stressing that his committee would convey to Ariel its disgust with this method of dealing with feral dogs.
“As a person and as someone who established the Knesset Caucus for the Protection of Animals, I say clearly – there are a thousand and one ways to deal with stray dogs, and I hope that the High Court of Justice will give its word unequivocally,” Cabel said.
“The committee will send a harsh letter to the agriculture minister on this matter, and will make clear to him our revulsion toward this corrupt way of dealing with the matter – that whoever bothers you, you simply eliminate.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the animal rights organization Let Animals Live announced that the ministry had decided to cooperate with the group to examine alternative ways of dealing with the stray dogs.
Nonetheless, a ministry spokeswoman denied this, saying that such a decision “never happened and never existed.”
Yael Arkin, CEO of Let Animals Live, called upon the municipality and the ministry to “take responsibility for a problem they created” – a situation in which unsterilized dogs roam freely and no longterm plan exists to solve this issue.
“The problem exists not only in Beit Shemesh but throughout the country,” she continued. “Dog shootings have been implemented here for 70 years, but this solution has proven ineffective. New dogs are arriving all the time.”
Let Animals Live voiced support for a program operated successfully in many other countries, which involves capturing the dogs and releasing them only after they are sterilized and immunized. As such, the organization encouraged the minister to promote a national master plan to reduce the breeding abilities of stray dogs.
“The solution in which innocent dogs are killed, due to fear of one or two dogs causing terror, is unacceptable and contrary to animal welfare, which is not only a law but also a mitzva from the Torah,” Arkin said.