Blog by PAL’s Programmes Manager for Animal Welfare and Outreach, Liz Tyson
There are a large number of fantastic projects around the world which focus on humane management of street dog populations. They come in a number of different forms. Two of the most predominant models focus on trapping, neutering and releasing the dogs (TNR or, if the programme also includes vaccination, TNVR) or trapping and rehoming via an adoption scheme. Other programmes simply focus on caring for street dog populations and include the provision of food and water for dogs living independently of people.
When we first started to devise plans to tackle the street dog population in Palestine, we had a number of decisions to make. While the idea of seeking adoption for dogs living on the streets was wonderful; imagining these dogs – who were often noticeably frightened of people and for who lifespan is a shocking 1.5 years’ old on average – learning to be loved and cared for, fed and treated when they became ill and living long and happy lives is something we would wish for every living being. But the reality at this time is that living with dogs as companion animals in Palestine is not yet common practice and therefore adoptions would generally mean moving the dogs out of the country to be adopted abroad. While there are hugely successful programmes which do just this around the world, we felt that this was not the best use of resources for our small organisation. We decided that TNVR would be the best approach in the short term and allow us to treat more dogs; giving more individuals a chance to live a happier and healthier life.
But, getting the project off the ground was fraught with difficulties. Indeed, in our initial meetings with municipalities on the subject, we were more or less laughed out of their offices!
One of the major challenges was access to equipment and medication. As there had never been such a programme in Palestine, we could not source the necessary equipment from within the country. This meant importing it from abroad which, in turn, pushed costs for the pilot project through the roof. Add to this the severe restrictions on importing anything into Palestine as it all has to be allowed through the Israeli border and the task became all the more difficult.
For example, we needed a portacabin to act as the recovery suite for the dogs after surgery. We could not build a permanent structure because this requires planning permission from the Israeli authorities and this is rarely granted to Palestinians. Permanent structures built without permission are at constant risk of demolition without notice. We could not bring the portacabin into Palestine due to restriction on imports. This simple factor could have brought the entire project to a halt.
Our team worked with skilled workers to build the recovery suite from scratch. This was the first time such a structure, whose main purpose was to ensure optimum animal welfare, has been produced in Palestine. As a result, our project had its purpose-built, high-spec recovery suite and the Palestinian company’s willingness to work with us led to their workers developing new skills, their company benefitting and by extension, the local community benefiting. In addition, PAL found a new partner in the scheme that we could return to as the project expands. This is the epitome of PAL’s motto in action “Helping Animals, Empowering People”.
Then, we needed to import the trapping cages. They were sent from the US and cost a small fortune once the cost of the cages themselves and the transport was paid for. But, after weeks of waiting, this vital equipment never arrived. After various enquiries, we found they were being held at Israeli customs. We were never informed why this was the case but we were forced to pay £1,300 to have them released. To this day, we have never had these costs explained to us but the project was held up by three months as a result.
So, when we needed more cages to expand the project, we knew that import was not an option. Again, we sought the help of local tradesman. Working from the existing traps as a model, Palestinian metalworkers created an exact copy for a fraction of the price. It worked like a dream and now six more have been commissioned. Once again, driving income to local businesses and encouraging the development of new skills, the production of the cages in Palestine is a small, but not insignificant victory.
At the heart of PAL’s work is the understanding that change and progress must come from within the community itself. This is why our TNVR programme works to train student vets from Palestine; ensuring that the skills required to develop a culture of responsible pet ownership remain within the country. This is why our horse and donkey programme works with local people; supporting them in making improvements for the animals that they are responsible for. This is why our educational work with young people is led by the young people themselves with the PAL team members simply acting as facilitators.
There is a very important place for international allies within PAL – I myself am not Palestinian but have worked with PAL for almost three years. We have had a number of incredible people from all over the world who are working to support PAL during visits to Palestine and also from their various locations globally. This support from allies will remain a hugely important part of our work forevermore but the focus must remain on capacity building within Palestine to secure PAL’s long-term success. While, right now, we may be talking about cages and portacabins – hardly cutting edge technology in the grand scheme of things (!) – what this work represents for me is the tenacity of the PAL team. Obstacles placed in front of them can, all too often, be a case of life and death as they navigate through their daily lives in the face of a brutal military occupation. It would be so easy, in their work for animals, for our team to give up, to listen when people tell them that things simply “cannot be done”. But they keep ignoring those statements and driving forward for animals, and for people. They just keep proving people wrong!
So, here’s to trapping cages and portacabins! I know that the incredible team working hard on the ground will continue to innovate for animals and continue to do amazing things in the most difficult circumstances.
Become an Animal Hero! Save a Street Dog!
In order to ensure that our work for the street dogs of Palestine can benefit even more dogs, and continue in the long-term, we need all the support we can get. We would like to invite you to be part of this groundbreaking work – your support will literally be helping to save lives.
Please join our scheme today by making a donation to save a street dog. You will receive a personalised e-certificate to acknowledge your generous support. You can even make the donation on behalf of a friend and we can make the certificate in their name; making a thoughtful gift for the animal lover in your life*.
£24 will pay for one dog to be spayed, vaccinated, health-checked and tagged.
Yes! I want to save a street dog’s life!
£50 will pay for a student vet to receive training to learn how to deliver spay and neuter surgery.
Yes! I want to support a young vet’s training!
£500 will fund the scheme for a full week, allowing the treatment of up to 20 dogs.
Yes! I want to fund this groundbreaking scheme!
Save a Street Dog Cotton Shopper – £5.00
Proceeds from sales of our “Save a Street Dog” cotton shopper go towards the scheme. Get yours today!
Thank you for your support!
*Simply make include a note at the check-out stage of your order to confirm your friend’s name to be included on the certificate. If no notes are included, we will add the payer’s name to the certificate.