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Diana Babish, an ex-banker from Bethlehem, hugs a dog at the first canine shelter in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour last year. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)

Poisoned Animals Caught In Palestinian Bureaucratic Net

Municipalities in the West Bank have reportedly been using poisoned meat to kill hundreds of stray dogs

Palestinian and international activists along with concerned citizens are accusing municipalities in the West Bank of using poisoned meat to kill hundreds of stray and feral dogs, causing them immense suffering in the process.

Diana Babish, founder of the Animal and Environment Association in Bethlehem, confirmed to The Media Line that the city governments of Beit Sahour, Beit Jallah and Ramallah are eradicating the dogs using poisoned meat distributed around streets and fields where the animals are known to frequent.

Occasionally municipal workers shoot the dogs instead to reduce their suffering, she explained. “Still, the poisoning method is painful and the dogs suffer for hours before they die. While some dogs are dangerous, most are not.”

The problem stems from how the community treats the dogs in general, according to Babish. “A lot of times I see teenagers torturing puppies and their mothers for no reason. And when people bully animals, they naturally become violent.

“I sent letters to the Palestinian Authority [PA] urging it to stop the municipalities from eliminating the dogs. I recently received a response from Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah stating that he referred the case to the Ministry of Agriculture.”

When contacted by The Media Line, the ministry denied any involvement and denounced the practice as a violation of Palestinian law.

Jihad Kheir, the mayor of Beit Sahour, told The Media Line that his municipality “does not kill dogs unless they threaten the lives of citizens.” When the life of the animal must be taken, he elaborated, there is a special committee that coordinates beforehand with the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The public relations department of the Ramallah municipality told The Media Line that it regularly deals with wild dogs attacking Palestinian citizens, mainly kids. The dogs also bark and fight at night, annoying residents. It urged the PA to do more to tackle the problem.

Cathren Saadeh, a Palestinian political analyst, noted as an observer-state at the United Nations, the PA is bound by international norms. “This includes the convention on animals [the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare], meaning Palestine has violated the statue. This reveals a gap in the monitoring and enforcement of animal rights and safety by the UN,” she contended to The Media Line.

“By law it is forbidden to kill stray animals unless they threaten the safety of citizens,” Mohammed Atta Dahadha, a Palestinian lawyer, conveyed to The Media Line, adding that “disposing of them is often the only way to prevent them from causing serious damage.”

However, he qualified that “only a designated committee can decide whether to end a dog’s life and if so, it must not endure pain and suffering.”

Alice Yousef related to The Media Line that days after her pet died abruptly members of her family found a piece of meat filled with poison close to their home. “I was away when ‘Milo’ was killed but it broke my heart. He was shaking and vomiting and I lost hope he would recover. I cannot understand how it is okay for such a thing to happen.”

Daisy Giacaman, a Palestinian animal-rights activist, believes that “in our globalized age with Internet there is absolutely no excuse for the so-called ‘educated’ to be ignorant regarding appropriate methods to control the number of stray animals.

“It is inexcusable and despicable,” she affirmed to The Media Line. “We elect municipal officials to represent us and act on our behalf. The majority of Palestinians would opt for the humane course of the action. This is the voice of the people and the municipalities should be loyal to them.”

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