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Agriculture Ministry launches campaign to boycott puppy mills, boost dog adoption

Israel Kennel Club, which breeds 3,000 puppies annually under strict rules, says ministry wrong to target breeders, should insist on registration and supervision instead

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

If you want a dog and care about animals, don’t buy puppies — adopt them from a recognized sanctuary. That’s the message of a two-week TV and digital media campaign launched by the Agriculture Ministry on Wednesday.

The Israel Kennel Club (Hebrew link) said it welcomed any initiative that would improve dog well-being and supported fighting pirates, importers, and traders who handle an estimated 30,000 puppies each year, without any supervision or restriction.

But it lamented the Agriculture Ministry’s failure to distinguish between puppy mill dogs and the roughly 3,000 puppies bred and registered annually under the club’s strict rules.

According to Knesset research from three years ago, pirate puppy mills breed tens of thousands of dogs for sale, often in shocking conditions that violate animal welfare laws.

Meanwhile, unknown thousands of healthy, abandoned animals are euthanized every year.

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“Thousands of cute dogs are waiting for you in kennels across the country. Open your home and heart for them,” the Agriculture Ministry’s campaign video clip recommends.

The clip features puppets of dogs in cages rather than real dogs to avoid fueling sudden demand for a particular breed.

The ministry said many people who bought puppies from such mills had contacted it after discovering that the dog they bought was not a real purebred or had behavioral or health problems.

A puppy mill in the northern city of Haifa run by a resident of the northern Druze village of Usafiya. (Ministry of Agriculture, as presented to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, August 3, 2020)

The kennel club said the way to reduce the number of abandoned dogs that end up in shelters was to ensure that all dogs were registered, as they are in developed countries.

The club went on to criticize the ministry’s handling of the highly contagious bacterial infection canine brucellosis, which in rare cases can also infect humans. Instead of making a Brucella test mandatory before an imported puppy enters the country, the ministry was insisting that the owners of registered dogs carry out the tests before canine competitions when those dogs are not the problem, the club said.

The club is lobbying for bills to ban the kind of breeding carried out at puppy mills, as well as to prohibit the killing of healthy dogs, saying the ministry should have advanced such legislation years ago.