Israel: Barking mad for dogs

Lee Saunders 15/08/2022

With Tel Aviv the 3rd dog-friendliest city in the world, we look ahead to the lesser known National Dog Day on August 26.

Dogs have been winning our hearts forever. Whether you are fans of the millions of pictures uploaded to Dogs of Israel and Dogs of Tel Aviv on Instagram, or have loved watching man’s best friend on the big screen, taking center stage in movies like Wizard of Oz (with Toto), Lady and The Tramp, Turner & Hooch, Marley & Me, there is a timeless bond between man and dog. To celebrate all breeds, and shine a spotlight on the continued need for canine adoptions and rescues, National Dog Day will be honored on August 26.

2020: Tel Aviv ranks third best city in world for dogs
And nowhere are dogs arguably more celebrated than across Israel, and in particular Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa is renowned as an animal-loving city. With its warm climate, friendly urban policy and wide range of related services, the city is truly unique in its approach towards men’s best friends. It was ranked the 3rd best city in the world for dogs in 2020, according to a German research study, which looked at a range of factors: from the number of dogs to infrastructure, such as pet-supply stores, dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants, ‘doggie daycare’ to the costs and responsibilities of dog ownership. It is easy to see why.

As temperatures climb in the summertime, water bowls are left outside multiple stores across the city, from pet stores to supermarkets, fashion chains to coffee shops, restaurants to ice cream shops, such as Anita and Golda. The public’s warm acceptance of dogs is visible everywhere, from stores and malls to buses and trains.

Since the establishment of the National Center for the Registration of Dogs by the Veterinary Services in the country’s own Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development 15 years ago, there were almost 500,000 dogs registered in Israel in 2019. The National Center’s aim is to regulate the monitoring of dogs in the State of Israel and to create a single nationwide database containing the details of all the dogs registered in Israel, out of the concern for the health of the public and the animals.

According to the Ministry’s own data, popular breeds including the Shih Tzu, Pomeranians and German Shepherds, and the most popular names including Louis for males and Lola for females. While Rishon LeZion, Haifa and Beer Sheva perform very well, it is in Tel Aviv where the dog culture shines brightest.

Tel Aviv – or Kelaviv (a mix of Kelev, Hebrew for dog, and Tel Aviv) is home to over 20,000 domestic dogs and 70 well-kept dog parks. Visitors will be amazed by how often they will spot dog walkers strolling down main thoroughfares, such as Tel Aviv’s glorious tree-lined Rothschild Boulevard, taking out for walks dogs of vastly different sizes and heights to any of the city’s many dog parks, such as the widely popular Gan Meir and Hayarkon Park.

Unique dog parks and beaches
And boy is there much for them to bark about. There is more than one dog park every square kilometer, and on Tel Aviv’s golden Mediterranean coastline, a short walk from the Dan Tel Aviv, you have a dedicated beach for dogs and their owners, sandwiched adjacent to the religious beach. Here you find a spacious cove where all breeds leap and frolic on the sand and in the waves, under the watchful eye of their owners. There are also fantastic dog-friendly beaches all along the coast, including at Charles Clore Park further south to Tel Baruch in the north, all the way to Herzliya.

In 2017, the smart city of Tel Aviv launched Digi-Dog, a mobile app created specifically for dog owners, alerting them to pet-friendly events and businesses nearby, and it also sends reminders about vaccinations. During 2020’s lockdowns, the number of dog adoptions soared and then fell back dramatically in 2021, according to statistics published by the Let the Animals Live foundation.

All the more reason, as this National Dog Day approaches, we take a look at some of the organizations that can help. On the first Friday of every month, the urban animal shelter for dogs and cats holds an adoption day in front of the Reading Arena, Tel Aviv-Yafo between 10:00 am and 13:30 pm. Others include “Haver Li” (my friend in Hebrew), a nonprofit organization for dog adoption, as well as “Adopt an Animal,” a one-of-its-kind project initiated by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality to enable animal lovers to adopt abandoned dogs. It is through these organizations, among others, that some of man’s abandoned friends find a new and nurturing home.

It can often feel like dogs come first. They should. They deserve it.