City in Central Israel Okays Shooting of Stray Dogs With Shotguns by Inspectors

Animal rights activists protest, but Beit Shemesh mayor calls spate of attacks over past several months 'dog terrorism'

File photo: Stray dogs in Israel.
Yaron Kaminsky

Agriculture Ministry inspectors have started shooting stray dogs around the city of Beit Shemesh at the request of the municipality. Until now the city shot stray dogs with sedatives to catch them. But under pressure by residents, many of whom reported being attacked by strays and wild dogs, the city urged the Agriculture Ministry to start killing the animals.

A statement released on Monday by the city on its official Facebook page said: “As a result of serious incidents in which abandoned and stray dogs that have gone wild attacked and injured city residents, even endangering their lives, the Agriculture Ministry has agreed to the city’s requests and allowed its Central Investigation and Enforcement Unit to shoot the dogs with shotguns.”

The city said it was legal to shoot wild dogs according to the regulations for preventing rabies, and that the action would be carried out by “expert sharpshooters” from the Agriculture Ministry unit between the hours of 3 A.M. to 7 A.M. The city also warned dog owners not to let their dogs roam freely. The city veterinarian said the decision was made after a young woman was bitten on her way home late Sunday night.

The city decided to toughen its policy after residents reported numerous attacks over the past few months. The dogs have been seen not just on the outskirts of the city but also in residential neighborhoods.

While residents praised the decision, animal rights organizations protested it. Activists roamed around the area of the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood on Monday night to make sure no dogs would be shot.

Yael Arkin, the CEO of the Let the Animals Live nonprofit organization, said the proper solution is to trap the dogs, spay and vaccinate them – and then return them to their natural habitat. Before opting to kill them, it is possible to do other things such as sedating them and trapping them, she said. “We will not let them do this,” she said. The organization asked Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel to stop the killing of stray dogs.

Calling the incidents “dog terrorism,” Mayor Moshe Abutbul said the city had tried other options but had no choice but to shoot the strays, noting that a number of residents had been hospitalized because of the attacks. Take pity on people’s lives too — human lives come first, he said.

No precise figures exist on the number of stray dogs in Israel. Rabies regulations allow the killing of any unvaccinated dog over six months old, or any dog suspected of having rabies. According to Let the Animals Live, about 1,000 dogs were shot in Israel in 2016 by the Agriculture Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which also kills dogs in and near nature reserves and national parks, either by shooting or poisoning them.