Dog-trainers' project reaches end of tether

Despite Netanya's winning first place in a national young dog-trainers' championship recently and dreaming of representing Israel at the coming international competition in Hungary, budgetary problems have forced an abrupt end to the city's young dog-trainers' course, reports The 15 students from Netanya's Shai Agnon high school, who won three individual medals and the first-prize group trophy at the national contest just a few weeks ago, were reportedly dismayed to learn that funding had been cut off and that they would have no more lessons in dog-training. According to the report, a young dog-trainers' course has been run at the Shai Agnon high school for the past four years as part of the national Young Dog-Trainers' Project run jointly by animal and youth welfare organizations at schools around Israel. The youths, many of whom come from troubled backgrounds, learn self-discipline and anger management while they learn the principles of animal care and training. The project focuses on teaching the skills involved in the sport of "dog agility," in which handlers must direct their dogs, using verbal commands and hand signals only, through obstacle courses. The competition measures both speed and accuracy and tests the quality of a dog's relationship with its handler. Last month, the first national dog agility championships were held in Sderot, with teams from around the country competing. The Shai Agnon team came in first as a group and won three individual medals, and hoped to win an additional national contest in two months' time and then represent Israel at the coming world dog agility championships in Hungary this September. A project manager said that funding for the past six months had come from the "Ir Mitnadevet No'ar" non-profit organization, which is affiliated with the Jewish Agency. He said the Netanya students were serious about the course and had made impressive achievements, and it was "a shame to stop in the middle when these children have changed their attitudes… and aim to be winners." A school spokeswoman said the students had been "very sorry" to learn that funding had been cut off and that they would have no more lessons. A municipal spokesman said the project was run and funded by various non-profit organizations and had begun and ended as planned by them. But the spokesman said that in view of the Netanya team's success, the city would "make efforts" to obtain additional funding that would enable the project to resume next year.