8th February 2016: The “No More Dogs of War” petition has now closed and been submitted to the Dutch government. Thank you to everyone who supported the campaign. We look forward to updating you on its progress.

A disturbing article published in the last few days by The Electronic Intifada – an independent news outlet covering the Palestinian struggle – highlighted the use of “attack dogs” by Israeli armed forces on Palestinian citizens. These dogs, often exported by European countries, and particularly the Netherlands, have been used for many years as living, breathing weapons – leading to devastating injuries on many civilians. Palestinian human rights organisation, Al Haq, has been working to encourage the Dutch government to place a ban on the export of the dogs. The Palestinian Animal League wholeheartedly supports the efforts of Al Haq and the call made in the article for the Dutch government to act and ban the export of dogs for this purpose.

The article published in Electronic Intifada focused strongly on injuries sustained by individual people as a result of the use of dogs in this way; highlighting concerns which are shared in full by the PAL team.  That said, we also felt that it was important to add further context and background to the issue by extending the rationale behind the call to ban the export of dogs for use in this way as based in concern for both human and animal protection.

He doesn't want to be used as a weapon, he just wants to be loved.

He doesn’t want to be used as a weapon, he just wants to be loved.

It perhaps goes without saying that dogs used in conflict zones are being deliberately placed in harm’s way by their guardians and, as an animal protection organisation, this is not something that PAL believes can be justified under any circumstances. Indeed, it seems incredible to think that training dogs to fight one another is seen in many countries as one of the most brutal forms of animal abuse and yet companies can make profit from training dogs to carry out violent attacks on people by selling them to Governments for this specific purpose.

But it is not just the risk to the individual dogs and the individual people who are attacked by those dogs that gives such cause for concern. The PAL team is also deeply concerned about the societal impact, on animals and people, when intelligent, companionable animals such as dogs are used for such violent ends against society as a whole.

The Societal Impact of Using Dogs as Weapons

From a young age, Palestinian children are taught to be afraid of dogs. And with good reason because, in Palestine, everyone knows of someone who has been attacked by a dog set upon them by members of the armed forces. The result of this is that dogs might be both feared and hated which, in turn, leads to high levels of violence towards dogs; sometimes in the form of municipality-led lethal control of stray populations as well as in the form of individuals taking matters into their own hands and hurting or killing dogs seen as either a threat or a nuisance.

During the research stage of PAL’s humane management programme for street dogs in Palestine, our team found an overwhelming majority of stakeholders cited “trained attack dogs” as being one of the major societal concerns around the stray dog population. Stakeholders told us that the fear of these dogs formed, in large part, the basis for public support for the lethal control methods currently used across the West Bank. While these fears are not unfounded given the way in which dogs have been used against Palestinians, we found that the number of dog bites actually recorded was miniscule (eight in one twelve-month period in Palestine’s most populated city) in comparison to the disproportionate level of concern relating to the potential for dog attacks. Put simply, our research suggested that, while the vast majority of dogs on the streets of Palestine are not aggressive towards people, a large proportion of people appear to fear them regardless

When dogs are presented as weapons, they are feared within society, leading to poor treatment.

This suggested to us that concerns over the use of dogs as weapons by the Israeli armed forces do not just impact the dogs and people caught up in the attacks, but is also influencing decision-making with regard to the largely harmless stray population. This in turn is resulting in the (often painful) deaths of hundreds of dogs within Palestine each year as the authorities attempt to alleviate the problem and bow to public demand.

In the year that PAL has been working with local authorities to develop Palestine’s first trap, neuter, vaccinate and release programme for street dogs, we have been delighted that authorities appear open to explore alternatives to lethal control and the first non-lethal control programme is due for launch in the coming months. However, while Palestinians continue to be placed under threat of deliberate dog attacks by the occupying forces, making progress on the ground to improve public perceptions of dogs and subsequent treatment of dogs by members of the public is a real challenge

Help us to Protect People and Animals from this Cruel Practice

It is clear to us that, in the interests of the protection of both people and animals, the continued use of dogs in attacks against Palestinians must stop. We believe that this is the only way in which we can begin to work within civil society to begin to undo the damage caused by the deliberate and long-standing campaign waged by the occupying forces to strike fear of dogs into the heart of the Palestinian population.

As a result of communication  between Al Haq and the Dutch government, officials in the Netherlands have suggested that they will consider placing restrictions on the export of dogs to Israel, but no firm decision has been reached, nor has any action been taken to date. We therefore hope that you will join us in signing and sharing our petition to call upon the Dutch Minister for Animal Welfare and the Dutch Minister for Trade to take immediate action to end the export of dogs to Israel for use against Palestinian citizens.

No More Dogs of War

To: Lilianne Plouman, Dutch Minister of Trade and Sharon Dijksma, Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment.

We, the undersigned, demand that the Dutch Government take immediate steps to ban the export of trained "attack dogs" to Israel in the interests of both human rights and animal protection. Dogs exported from your country are reported to have been used during attacks on Palestinians over a number of years. This not only places the people and dogs involved in unacceptably dangerous situations, potentially violating human rights, but also has a wider impact on animal welfare in Palestinian society.

The distorted and violent image of dogs which has been created by their cruel use as weapons against Palestinian citizens by the occupying forces has a serious impact on the way in which Palestinian civil society views and treats dogs; particularly stray populations, who are subject to lethal control. While dogs continue to be used and presented as a source of fear, pain and injury to Palestinian citizens, the abuse, injury and killing of dogs will inevitably continue.

In the interests of both human rights and animal protection, we implore to end your complicity in this cruel trade.

Yours Sincerely

الى : ليليان بلومان، وزيرة التجارة وشارون ديسما، وزير الدولة للبنية التحتية والبيئة في هولندا.

نحن، الموقعون أدناه، نطالب بأن تتخذ الحكومة الهولندية خطوات فورية لحظر تصدير وتدريب "الكلاب المدربة على الهجوم" لإسرائيل وذلك لصالح كل من حقوق الإنسان وحماية الحيوان. وقد تبين وبشكل مثبت بالدلائل ان الكلاب التي يتم تصديرها من بلدك قد استخدمت في هجمات على الفلسطينيين على مدى عدد من السنوات. هذا يضع ليس فقط الناس بل والكلاب التي تشارك في الحالات الخطرة بصورة غير مقبولة، وتشكل انتهاك لحقوق الانسان، كما ان لديها أيضا تأثير أوسع نطاقا على الرفق بالحيوان في المجتمع الفلسطيني.

الصورة مشوهة وعنيفة بسبب الكلاب التي تم تدريبها بقسوة لتصبح أسلحة ضد المواطنين الفلسطينيين من قبل قوات الاحتلال.
ان الصور والمشاهدات التي يراها الفلسطينيين من الكلاب المدربة على القتل تركت لديهم اثار نفسية سلبية وخوف مبرر من الكلاب الضالة مما دفعهم الى التعامل معها بأساليب مميته من اجل التخلص منها .

لمصلحة كل من حقوق الإنسان وحماية الحيوان، نحن نتوسل من اجل وضع حد لهذه التجارة القاسية

تفضلوا بقبول فائق الاحترام

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Photo source: Maja Dumat