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Stray dogs a serious problem in the West Bank

May 9, 2015 4:47 P.M. (Updated: May 10, 2015 5:54 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A video on Facebook of young men torturing a stray dog in the West Bank city of Bethlehem has sparked a debate across the occupied territory, with calls for authorities to find a humane solution to the hundreds of stray dogs roaming the West Bank.

The dogs, which travel in packs through the night, are known to be dangerous, but up until now, officials have failed to find an effective solution to the problem.

Ministry of Health official Asaad Ramlawi said that 840 people were bitten by stray dogs in the West Bank in 2014, noting that the antibodies are very costly.

They have also been known to attack and kill Palestinian livestock, and in February, local farmers in Salfit told Ma'an that a pack of stray dogs had killed 33 sheep on a single farm.

Palestinian police spokesman Luay Irzeiqat said that police departments across the West Bank constantly receive complaints about stray dogs attacking children and elderly people, as well as attacking livestock and damaging crops.

He said that police coordinate with municipal councils to try and fight the phenomenon, but that this was mostly restricted to poisoning the animals.

In some cities, local residents have been known to get rid of stray animals by poisoning them, and there have also been reports of police officers shooting at them.

However, Irzeiqat noted that police also often receive complaints about people attacking the dogs.

Diana Baabeesh, who chairs an animal rights group in Bethlehem, said that the only solution is to create an animal shelter for stray dogs in which they could be neutered and spayed.

Both the municipal council and the governor's office in Bethlehem have welcomed the suggestion, but said that plans for a shelter had been shelved due to a failure to provide needed land to build the pound.

Yousef Musallam, who chairs the Bethlehem municipality's health department, told Ma'an that Bethlehem "is one of the most active West Bank municipalities in fighting stray dogs, but so far the only means we have is poisoning them."

"It's the only available method," he added, noting: "In developed countries, they have dog pounds."
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