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Fear of a rabies outbreak has led a committee of experts established by the heath and agriculture ministries to recommend clearing garbage dumps and culling dogs that feed there by shooting them. However, the cleanup has not yet been funded and the culling policy, which was halted two years ago on the instructions of Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, has not yet been renewed.

The committee began its deliberations six months ago and recently submitted its recommendations. It notes that over the past decade a program has been underway to inoculate wild animals orally against rabies by dropping bait laced with the rabies vaccine from the air. As a result, the rate of infection of foxes and jackals has dropped to almost zero. Last year, teams from both Israel and Jordan were involved in the program. So far, more than four million inoculation doses have been dropped over most of Israel.

However, the past six years have seen a spread of rabies caused by a different virus carried by feral dogs that are reproducing thanks to ready food sources at dump sites. These dogs do not eat the inoculation-laced bait and have passed the virus on to jackals, but it has not spread because the jackals are inoculated. "The high numbers of feral dogs has allowed the virus to cause an outbreak of the disease to an extent that is a real danger to the public," the committee notes.

The feral dogs also prey on rare wild animals.

The committee's two major recommendations are a long-term plan to stop dumping, mainly in agricultural areas, and to cull the population of feral dogs by shooting them, although it notes that cleanup is more effective. The cost of the cleanup, which has not been budgeted, is estimated at NIS 160 million for the coming decade.

The culling, which was done by specially trained Israel Nature and Parks Authority rangers, was halted by Erdan, who called for clear guidelines to dictate when shooting was necessary. The INPA submitted the guidelines more than a year ago, but the Environmental Protection Ministry has not approved a resumption of the culling.

The committee recommended that Agriculture Ministry personnel also take part in the culling.

The Environmental Protection Ministry responded: "The Agriculture Ministry bears full responsibility for preventing rabies and it has the ability to act on the matter. If the Nature and Parks Authority begins culling again, it will be only to prevent harm to wild animals. Even then, it will be done according to a clearly defined procedure that will ensure that domestic dogs whose owners have lost them will not be hit, and in a manner that reduces suffering to the dogs and prevents their being left wounded and bleeding. This procedure has been formulated and is in the final process of scrutiny. Its implementation will be discussed at the first working meeting between the new director general of the Nature and Parks Authority and the environmental protection minister."