|Campaigns In the Knesset Media Coverage: nrg, 28 November 2006|
"A day of celebration for the animals in Israel"
This is how the Director of the "Hakol Chai" charity described the first meeting of the Animal Lobby, headed by MK Yoel Hasson, which was held in the Knesset. Representatives of the authorities and of animal organizations discussed the condition of the city pounds in Israel and painted a rather grim reality.
By Adi Hagin
nrg (Online Edition of Ma'ariv)
28 November 2006
Translated and excerpted from Hebrew
"Our dog pound is disgusting. It looks as if it was built in the fifties. It is wide open and has no walls. It is very cold in the winter. When we arrive in the morning, we find dead puppies that did not survive the cold. It breaks our heart. We also have our share of thefts. I have 40 dogs who live crowded in five cages and a single employee. And there's no point in saying anything about the cat pound. They tried to make patches to block the rain, but it didn't really help," said an authority veterinarian to the charity "Hakol Chai".
The veterinarian's testimony was read aloud to the dozens of people who attended today (Tuesday) the opening meeting of the Animal Lobby in the Knesset, headed by MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima). MK Hasson explained that he'd always loved animals; he used to volunteer as a kid in the zoological garden in Abu Kabir, and raised every possible animal. "I hope, through the Lobby, to raise awareness of the animal issue, to educate people to love them and raise them, and to lead also to the positive aspects of the subject". MK Dov Hanin (Hadash), who chairs the Environmental-Social Lobby, also attended the meeting.
The activity of the Lobby, which was initiated by "Hakol Chai" together with Hasson, opened with a rather unpleasant tone when Ministry of Agriculture personnel, headed by Dr. Dganit Ben Dov, who is in charge of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Law in the Ministry, had to hear a barrage of claims and shouts from the animal organizations' representatives.
The meeting focused on the state of the quarantine stations run by the Israeli authorities. Dr. Ben Dov presented a rather grim picture: there are in Israel about sixty authority-owned dog pounds, two-thirds of which are operated by the authority itself, and the remaining third are operated by the private sector for the authority. There are differences in the scope of the authority veterinarian's job and in the size of the veterinary department. In addition, there are differences in the level of the employees in the pounds in terms of their know-how, training, and affinity with the animals.
There are more than 200,000 dogs in Israel who carry a chip and are registered in the national database. 100,000 animals are abandoned each year, and only ten percent of them find homes. The number of authorities that fail to report on the condition of the pounds grows annually. Dr. Ben Dov noted that it is difficult to collect data about the putting to death of animals who arrive at quarantine stations. Estimates are that between 20 and 40 thousand dogs are cared for in the authority-owned dog pounds each year. "We believe that there is much to improve and mend in the authority care system for animals," she said.
Adv. Yadin Elam, Director of "Hakol Chai," explained that the pounds’ problem is not only budgetary. "It is important to have resources available, so that the quarantine stations will look good, but this isn't enough – a professional team is needed in the pounds". One of the problems raised in the meeting was that of the integration of volunteers in the city pounds. This type of cooperation is disrupted many times, due to disagreements and quarrels pertaining to the manner of treatment of one animal or another.
It should be noted that many organizations assist these dog pounds, providing love, compassion, and empathy to the animals, and taking them out for walks. The volunteers also arrange adoption days and foster families for certain dogs, and sometimes even finance out of their own pockets expensive treatments. Their dedicated activities fulfill many times needs that are not fulfilled by the authority, and their assistance in the dog pounds is blessed. There are cases, however, as in the Gilboa dog pound, where serious disputes create a problem, and the volunteers are prohibited from entering the pounds.
Adv. Zohar Shkalim, Director of the Animal Protection Department in the Environment Ministry, says there are three main activities that need to be carried out: The first one is the enforcement of punishments set in the Law Against Cruelty to Animals. She says that there is no enforcement in the area of animal abuse. The second activity is the allocation of appropriate budgets. "We allocate funds to the authorities; I call upon the Ministries of Interior and Agriculture to do the same. The State spends hundreds of thousands of shekels every month on putting down dogs. It would have been better for it to spend this money on maintenance of the facilities, and on neutering and spaying.
Here Shkalim reached the third activity – the need to adopt a clear policy of neutering and spaying and adoption. According to her, authorities who ask for budgetary assistance from her office are required to bring proof that they are implementing an adoption policy for the animals kept by them.
The meeting was adjourned by MK Yoel Hasson, who called to regulate first and foremost the issue of volunteers. He suggested a dialog between the representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and the organizations, in the context of which policies will be formulated, which will be agreed upon by the parties. He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture's supervision over the city pounds should be enhanced, and that a small joint team should be established.
Perhaps such a parliamentary initiative and the participation of more Knesset Members in the Animals Lobby will yield sweet fruits for the helpless, and perhaps we will even live to see the day of animal rights (according to Hasson's suggestion) noted in the Knesset Assembly.