Stray dogs have until now been considered a threat mainly to wild animals. But a recent incident in which a dog pack attacked Uriel Rubin of Tzur Hadassah shows that they also pose a real danger to human beings.
Last Saturday, Rubin left his home southwest of Jerusalem for an early morning run along the main road leading to the West Bank. But his run nearly ended in serious injury.
"While I was running along the road, a pack of eight or 10 dogs suddenly emerged from a grove on the other side," he said. "Before I could grasp what was happening, they jumped on me and knocked me to the ground. I instinctively guarded my face with my hands and felt one of the big dogs bite my leg. I began to kick in all directions, got up quickly and managed to get away."
Rubin rushed to the hospital for a rabies shot. But now that he knows stray dogs will not hesitate to attack people, he worries about what might happen to others, especially on weekends, when many hikers and bicycle riders frequent the area where he was attacked.
There have also been other reports of aggressive behavior toward people by dog packs. Reli Ferngeller, an environmental planner, said that while surveying an open area near Dimona a year ago, a pack of dogs began to run toward her. She escaped to her car, which was parked nearby.
Dog packs have also been preying on the rare fallow deer, an animal in danger of extinction which has been reintroduced to the wild from zoos.
Until 18 months ago, wild dogs were shot by Israel Nature and Parks Authority inspectors in an effort to prevent rabies. But then, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan banned such shootings until he had approved new rules meant to prevent what he termed unnecessary suffering or unjustified shooting. Two months ago, the nature authority gave the ministry a draft of its revised regulations, but Erdan has yet to approve it.
The authority says the rabies problem worsened after stray dogs wandered into Israel from across the border. Many dogs also go wild after being abandoned by their owners, and then become carriers of rabies.
The proposed new regulations would let inspectors shoot dogs in areas where rabies has spread, if they have definitely identified the animal and they have a good chance of a fatal shot that would prevent it from suffering. They would then have to make sure the animal was dead.
Shooting would be permitted in areas more than 1,000 meters from residential zones. Animals with identification, like a collar, or that act like domestic pets could not be shot. Within three kilometers of the border, all dogs suspected of coming from over the border could be shot.
The Environmental Protection Ministry responded that by law, the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for preventing the spread of rabies, so questions on this matter should be addressed to it.
But if nature authority inspectors are allowed to shoot dogs again, it will only be to prevent harm to other wild animals for which they are responsible, and in accordance with the regulations now under consideration.
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