A Kafkaesque Situation

Indifference and "red tape" on the part of the legal authorities brought about the death of a dog that was left in a house when its owner was hospitalized

The barks and calls for help from the ten year old Collie were heard loudly and clearly around the residence in Bat Yam. Anyone passing close to the apartment could not avoid the strong smell of the bodily wastes that were coming from it. An alert and concerned neighbor who discovered the source of the barking, found out that the dog’s owner, who was renting the apartment, was admitted to the hospital two days earlier, and that the dog was left locked up in the apartment without food, water and care.

The police officers, who arrived after he called them, claimed that they did not have the authority to break into the apartment. In a phone conversation that the police had with the owner of the apartment, she refused to cooperate with them and claimed that the key was not in her possession. The neighbor did not give up and again called the police hotline, but he was told that the municipal veterinarian was not willing to go to the site. When all his efforts to assist the dog through the police failed, that evening Ilan contacted the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel.

A representative of the Society immediately went out to the site, and at the same time the Society got its lawyer, Moshik Galiko, to take steps to get a court order to break into the apartment in order to save the life of the dog—which the police should have done earlier. In spite of the immediate threat to the life of the dog, the judge on duty at the Magistrate’s court in Tel Aviv refused to talk directly with the lawyer, which caused a significant delay of three hours. The judge claimed that it was the job of the police to act in this matter, and her recommendation was to turn to the police, to request the details of the hospitalized renter, to go with the police to the hospital and to ask her for the keys to the apartment. All this occurred while losing precious time, since it was already 11:20 at night.

An additional two hours were lost while waiting at the police station, where they refused to accompany the representative to the hospital at such a late hour. An entire night passed while, according to the neighbor, the barks of the dog grew weaker and were almost not heard. The next morning the representative of the Society and their lawyer arrived at the Magistrate’s court in Rishon LeTzion, and within two hours a judge issued an order to break into the apartment.

In order to activate the order, representatives of the Society went to the police station in Bat Yam and requested police accompaniment. The police commander again contacted the apartment owner, and after she understood that they were going to break into the apartment, she said that she found the keys and asked that they wait until she got there. The police sent the representatives of the Society to the apartment and told them to wait there for the arrival of the police. In the meantime, Dr. Elad Shapira, a veterinarian from the Society, joined them in order to give first aid to the dog.
Fifty minutes later, the owner of the apartment arrived and opened the door to the apartment. The place was a horror: the entire floor of the apartment was covered in urine and feces with an extremely pungent odor, and the dog was found lying on the porch in death throes. Dr. Shapira gave it an infusion of liquids, but within a short while the dog expired. According to Dr. Shapira, the dog died of dehydration, and it is reasonable to assume that it could have been saved if not for the long time that passed from the first reporting of the incident until the door was finally opened by the apartment owner.

After the police were updated on all the details, the police commander ordered an investigation of the apartment owner for maltreatment of an animal. At the same time, the Society appealed to Dr. Deganit Ben Dov, the Commissioner for the Law of Cruelty to Animals at the Agriculture Ministry, to file a complaint against the municipal veterinarian of Bat Yam, who was not willing to go to the place of the incident to rescue the dog.

Regrettably, the indifference of the legal authorities and the apartment owner, the massive red tape and the delays of the simple procedures apparently led to the sorrowful and unnecessary death of the dog. The law of Cruelty to Animals was created to protect helpless animals and we expect the authorities to act in these cases exactly as they would if a human were trapped in the apartment. We call upon the public to be aware and to report such instances, and we expect the authorities to bring to justice anyone involved in these instances who did not act correctly.