Hebron mayor backtracks on order to kill stray dogs following backlash

RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian mayor of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneineh, announced during an interview on a local radio station on November 2 that he would offer 20 Israeli shekels (5 $.85) to anyone who captures or kills a stray dog, in an effort to reduce the number of stray dogs in the city.

Abu Sneineh’s announcement drew widespread criticism from citizens, as well as animal welfare groups, who called for finding more merciful ways to treat animals instead of killing them.

Several municipalities in the West Bank resort to culling stray dogs by shooting or poisoning them, while other local authorities, such as the municipality of Ramallah, catch dogs in cages without harming them in order to sterilize them.

The difference between local authorities in the treatment of stray animals is due to the ambiguity of the wording of Article 15, point 24 of the Palestinian Local Authorities Law, defining the functions and powers of municipal councils in the West Bank. Section 24 states that local councils are responsible for “supervising stray dogs, regulating the acquisition of dogs, preventing any danger arising from dogs and getting rid of stray or rabid dogs”.

Shortly after Abu Sneineh’s announcement, several young people in Hebron launched a campaign against the killing of dogs, distributing leaflets throughout the city calling on citizens to have mercy on dogs and organizing awareness workshops and lectures for students. They also urged the authorities to find a solution to the phenomenon of stray dogs in accordance with Islamic and humanitarian values, and asked the mayor to apologize.

The backlash prompted Abu Sneineh to reconsider his decision. In another interview with Ashams Radio on November 6, Abu Sneineh explained that he only aimed to bring up the issue of stray dogs to find solutions to this disturbing phenomenon in the city.

He said that several parties had contacted him and had made good suggestions, which would be considered, to eliminate the danger that stray dogs posed to children and women in particular, noting that he had been in contact with the ministry local authorities to find appropriate mechanisms. to shelter these stray dogs.

Representatives of the Palestinian Animal League (PAL) and the Independent Commission for Human Rights met on November 7 with the Hebron Municipality to discuss solutions regarding the phenomenon of stray dogs, in addition to killing them or to give citizens the right to take matters into their own hands. The municipality stressed during the meeting that it had not issued any official decision regarding the treatment of stray dogs, in reference to Abu Sneineh’s bounty, Ahmed Safi, executive director of PAL, told Al-Monitor.

He pointed out that all parties present at the meeting agreed on the need to raise public awareness of animal welfare in Hebron and to stress that anyone who kills dogs or causes harm to animals would be subject to legal action.

PAL suggested at the meeting the castration of stray dogs as a humanitarian solution to the problem of stray dogs in the city of Hebron and its suburbs. He will work alongside the municipality to take the necessary steps in this regard as soon as possible, Safi explained.

He added that they also discussed the mechanisms for treating waste from restaurants, butchers and poultry shops that attract stray dogs, which the municipality has committed to put in place, in addition to organizing an awareness campaign with the general public, to inform them of the decision to sterilize stray dogs instead of killing them.

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