This week, the PAL team carried out the very first formal census of stray dogs in the Palestinian city of Tulkarm. The work forms part of an ongoing project to tackle the stray animal population in the area using humane management techniques – with a pilot “Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release (TNVR)” programme in the final stages of planning and due for implementation in the coming months.
The census, which established an informed estimate of the number of stray dogs in the area, is the final important step to establish the scale of the problem, before the TNVR process can begin. The work, carried out over two nights found that there are around 1,100 stray dogs on the streets at present. All of the dogs are at risk of suffering poor health, lack of vet care and nutrition and, importantly, may be targeted using lethal control methods such as poisoning and shooting. PAL’s work seeks to bring an end to the suffering of street animals in Palestine by implementing a programme which protects the animals, while supporting the local community to better understand and manage nuisance and problems caused by the stray population.
The group carrying out the census, made up of the PAL team and volunteer vet students and staff from Al Najah University, worked between the hours of 10pm and 5am on two nights. Taking a random sample of areas across the city and working to pre-defined methodology, the team were delighted to be joined by local residents, who offered their help in transporting the team around the city.
Said Ahmad Safi, Executive Director of PAL:
“Not only were we trying to establish numbers of animals, but it was also our first opportunity to share our plans with the local community. We were delighted that members of the public were not only supportive of our efforts, but a number of people offered help and worked with us as guides and as drivers. There was a real community spirit and it gives us great hope that the programme will be a huge success”.
Working closely with the Governorate of Tulkarm and the veterinary faculty at Al Najah University, the ambitious TNVR programme will not only deal with animals on the street, but will also work to offer low-cost spay and neuter surgery to owned animals in order to encourage responsible pet ownership. Mr Safi continued:
“At present, there is no culture of spaying and neutering pets here in Palestine and this is something that needs to be tackled. The street animal population is, in part, the result of pet animals being abandoned and so we need to deal with the problem at the source if we are to see long-term results. For this reason, the planned programme has a strong element of public engagement to encourage people to look after their pets properly and ensure that they are not part of the problem”.
Mr Safi paid tribute to the students who gave up their time to help carry out the census, along with the staff of the university and the Governorate and Municipality of Tulkarm, who have offered their support at all stages of the project’s development.
Subject to funding being secured, the pilot programme is due to begin in late 2015, with plans for expansion to other Palestinian cities in coming years.