dog - AP - December 1 2010
A dog, October 20, 2010. Photo by AP
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Tel Aviv municipal veterinarian Zvi Galin has suspended the use of a device meant to keep dogs away from the gardens in the new plaza in front of the Habima Theater. It emits sounds high-frequency sounds not by humans. Dr. Galin told Haaretz he learned only last week of plans to use the device and stressed that he is unfamiliar with its impact and so ordered that it not be used. "I prohibited them from installing and operating such a device until its full impact on animals in the area is assessed," said Galin.

The municipal corporation, Ahuzat Hahof, which maintains the plaza, installed the systems in two locations in the garden inlay in the new plaza's center and in adjacent Yaakov Park. The corporation planned to begin using the device next week, Army Radio reported yesterday.

The deputy CEO of Ahuzat Hahof, Charlie Ben Simon, says the device does not harm dogs, only deters them. He says the matter was coordinated with the municipal veterinarian and possibly there was just some misunderstanding.

"So much money was invested in the entire complex and recently we have been suffering from vandalism from dogs and cats in the gardens," says Ben Simon. "Every Monday and Thursday, we have to replace saplings in Yaakov Park. The dogs and cats chase each other, enter the gardens, urinate, defecate, dig and even make holes in the pipes to drink. They vandalize for the sake of vandalism." Ben Simon says: "The system does not harm the dogs; it just tells them not to approach a given area. I'm hopeful that the system will work as it should, so that we can keep the garden green and beautiful." The system works within a limited radius, he says, and does not prevent dog walkers' passage through the plaza. "Only if a dog enters the garden, will he raise his head and realize that he should not be there. If the dog owner follows the municipal regulations and walks with the dog on a leash, there is no reason why this should be a problem. There is no desire to harm the dogs." Ben Simon says other solutions were ineffective. The area is signposted and "we have two guards there on a regular basis and they approach dog owners, who say 'the dog ran away.' They ignore us."

He says that the proposed solution was suggested by the corporation, which a few months ago installed a similar device that emits sounds on frequencies heard by bats, to distance them. The bats chew on the fruit of the ficus trees on the nearby streets and then spit out a gooey liquid. The municipal corporation wanted to keep the new plaza, the work of architect Dani Karavan, white and installed the anti-bat device with the approval of the chief municipal veterinarian.

"The system works very well," says Ben Simon. "There is no more spit. The white remains white."

Avner Raz, an expert on dog behavior, says that many animals can hear these frequencies. "It's a very dangerous thing for animals. Not just for dogs, but also for rodents, cats and birds," he warns. "Placing ultrasonic devices that emit sounds continuously in a public garden is A very harsh environmental punishment for a dog, and can of course be painful. Dog owners usually will not grasp what is happening to the dog, because they are unaware. The dog is on a leash and cannot flee from the noise. The dog faces many dangers. It can have a terrifying effect. Dogs can develop obsessive behaviors if they face a situation of constant punishment."

Raz worked with similar devices in specific situations for brief periods to treat canine behavioral problems. According to him, "such devices should only be used by skilled professionals, experts who use disturbing stimuli for just a thousandth of a second. Operating such a device round the clock is a criminal. It's completely illogical. It's inhuman. Where are the animals' rights?"

Animal rights' organizations were surprised by the plan. "Too bad a city such as Tel Aviv, which has many dogs, mistreats the animal population," says Naama Rolnick, a dog trainer at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel-Tel Aviv. "There are better ways to enforce this, having more supervisors on duty, installing more refuse collection containers, but not distancing them using this method."