Hebron mayor elicits outrage after offering $5 for anyone who kills a stray dog

The Palestinian mayor of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneineh, has sparked outrage after offering a bounty for the killing of stray dogs in his city.

During an interview with a local radio station on Wednesday, Abu Sneineh announced, “Whoever kills a stray dog or delivers to us a stray dog that’s been killed, we are willing to reward him with 20 shekels ($5.6) for each dog delivered to us.”

Abu Sneineh, who has lived much of his life outside of Hebron — in Jordan and in an Israeli prison, for his participation in a 1980 Hebron attack — went on to say in the interview that he had drawn inspiration from Jordan.

“This is an issue I have experience with. In Jordan there are feral pigs. They cause damage and attack people. They used to give out 100 dinars to whoever killed a feral pig.”

Following his comments, some videos and photos shared on social media purported to show locals in Hebron rounding up stray dogs and killing or abusing them. However, at least some of the footage appeared to be fake or old and unrelated to the mayor’s offer.

After Abu Sneineh’s statement provoked condemnation from animal rights activists, derisive social media posts, and apparent isolated cases of violence against dogs, the mayor walked back the comments, saying Friday that City Hall had not implemented any such bounty program. He also told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday that he wasn’t being serious when he made the offer.

Speaking to the same radio show, he defended the idea nonetheless.

“No decision has been taken and there is no program in place, I was merely sharing the idea that rewarding citizen who collects stray dogs might be something positive,” Abu Sneineh asserted.

“I’ve had children brought to my home after having been bitten by stray dogs and their condition was extremely critical…this is a real problem that needs a solution,” he said.

According to Palestinian Authority statistics reported by BBC Arabic, there have been 73 injuries from stray dog attacks in the Palestinian Territories so far this year, and the PA health ministry is working with local authorities to find solutions to the problem.

Abu Sneineh’s floating of the bounty idea was met with harsh criticism from animal rights activists in both the Palestinian Territories and in Israel.

Soon after the radio interview, the Palestinian Animal League (PAL) called on him to “retract his statement” and “to clarify” his proposal, which PAL denounced as entailing “religious, humanitarian, health and legal violations.” PAL insisted that the city’s budget could much more ethically be put toward a program to spay and neuter stray dogs.

Michael Ettinger, the head of the Israeli Veteran’s Union (IVU), was aghast.

“It’s so cruel that it can’t be expressed in words,” Ettinger said in a statement. “Taking care of the issue of stray dogs and other animals must be done with sensitivity, professionalism and compassion. Veterinarians must take dogs to kennels and find ways to prevent their multiplying by, among other things, neutering males and spaying females.”

Ettinger invited Abu Sneineh to read IVU guidelines on stray animals and called on the Israeli government to demand that Abu Sneineh stop the killing of unhoused canines.

Meanwhile, some in Hebron appeared to take the mayor’s statements less as a call to action than as fodder for tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes rather dark, commentary.

A photoshopped picture circulating on social media showed a dog on its hind legs equipped with an assault rifle to defend itself.

One Twitter user calculated that 30 dead dogs delivered daily to city hall at 20 NIS a piece would translate into a monthly salary of 18,000 NIS. “Better than any other employment!” the person quipped. The average monthly salary for Palestinians in the West Bank is about NIS 6,000 ($1,700).

Abu Sneineh must have gotten wind of the jokes being made at his expense. In the interview in which he sought to clarify his initial statement, the Hebron mayor said of seeing child victims of dog bites: “It’s a sight that makes you suffer, so it’s no cause for levity.”

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