wild dogs
An Roebuck wounded by wild dogs being cared for. Photo by Jerusalem Biblical Zoo
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For the second year in a row, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority is being barred from thinning out wild dog packs that spread rabies and attack rare species of wild animals, because the authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry have yet to agree on rules for how to do so.

Last week, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan promised that the necessary rules would be finalized shortly. That same week, wild dogs seriously wounded a female roebuck near Nahal Soreq, one of a group that had been returned to nature from captivity. The INPA has also documented cases in which dog packs attacked and ate roebucks and gazelles.

A year ago, Erdan decided not to renew a permit his ministry had given INPA inspectors in the past to shoot wild dogs to cull the packs and contain the spread of rabies. Shooting the dogs also reduced the number of attacks on wildlife. But Erdan claimed the existing rules did not clearly specify when shooting dogs was truly necessary and when it was not.

In response, the INPA proposed new rules several months ago. But it and Erdan's ministry have yet to reach a final agreement on the matter, and meanwhile, Erdan is still refusing to issue the permits.

According to the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary service, 54 incidents of rabies were discovered last year, almost half of them among dogs. The data showed the disease spreading from the Golan Heights to other parts of Israel, including the Jordan and Jezreel valleys.

To combat this, the Agriculture Ministry and the INPA have been scattering food laced with oral rabies vaccine in open areas. This has worked on foxes, but dogs won't eat the vaccine-laced food.

"The minister's decision creates a real danger to wild animals," said Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov of Tel Aviv University. "The Nature and Parks Authority has applied to the minister over and over, but he keeps leading them by the nose and not making the decision that would enable them to protect these wild creatures and prevent the spread of disease."

Because of the presence of large numbers of wild dogs and the ban on shooting them, the effort to return roebucks to the wild around Nahal Soreq was halted almost a year ago.

"We want to set rules that will not be based on controlling rabies, which is the responsibility of the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary service, but solely on protecting wild animals against wild dogs," Erdan responded. "I hope we'll be able to set such rules soon. They will have to limit the area in which [INPA] inspectors are allowed to work to thin the population of loose dogs, while being careful not to hurt dogs that have owners."