Israel Has 33,000 Stray Dogs, Most in Negev Bedouin Locales, Survey Says

Study is first step in addressing plight by Humane Society International, which supports release of strays after neutering and vaccination

Stray dogs in northern Israel, 2012.
Yaron Kaminsky

There are 33,000 stray dogs in Israel, 60 percent of which are in the southern part of the country, according to the first survey of its kind to be conducted locally by Humane Society International, last year.

The global animal-protection organization is involved, among other activities, in neutering and vaccinating strays and returning them to the locations where they are picked up. The survey was conducted on behalf of Let the Animals Live Israel, an NGO that believes that HSI's approach is a compassionate alternative to the widespread shooting and killing of these animals. Advocates of approach claim that sterilization and inoculation make it possible to exert tighter control over the population of strays. Moreover, studies have shown that such measures also rein in rabies more effectively than killing the dogs.

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The survey is the first step in a nationwide plan by HSI, the international arm of the Humane Society of the United States, to actively address the problem of stray dogs in Israel. The results show that there are some 19,860 stray dogs in the south of the country, mostly in the vicinity of the Negev Bedouin communities that have been established without government authorization. There are slightly more than 10,000 of them in the north, mostly near smaller locales. Surveyors found that there were relatively small populations of the dogs in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas.

The editors of the HSI project, Rahul Sehgal and Amit Chaudhari, acknowledged that their ability to carry out the study and to accurately analyze the situation in the south was limited by the fact that some of the communities there are unrecognized, and they noted that the actual number of strays is likely to be even higher in those areas.

HSI intends to carry out additional research in these locations, where it is clear that a particularly intensive effort will be required to deal with the stray dog problem, according to organization officials.

“We have taken responsibility [for an issue] that should have been the province of the Agriculture Ministry,” said Yael Arkin, director of Let the Animals Live Israel. “From here on in, it is the responsibility of the government and the Agriculture Ministry in particular to adopt the report’s findings, especially its recommendations. Solutions such as the indiscriminate shooting of dogs, as is carried out periodically in Israel, have proved ineffective and have even resulted in an increase in the number of strays.”

During last year’s visit by HSI, the Agriculture Ministry stated that it opposes the organization’s approach of releasing stray dogs after they have been captured and treated.

For its part, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said it is unaware of any country in which the HSI approach has been successful in reducing dog populations.