(Photo: The Canaan Dog Club of America)
A woman who immigrated to Israel to help preserve the Canaan dog, an Israeli breed believed to have made multiple appearances in the Bible, is now at risk of losing her home, and her kennel, due to a lawsuit filed by the Israel Lands Authority.
Sha'ar Hagai Kennels was started by Myrna Shiboleth about 42 years ago when she moved into an isolated, abandoned building in Israel and renovated it to make it suitable for both her and the dogs.
Shiboleth told The Christian Post via email on Friday that people in Israel generally object to having kennels inside settlements, so she decided to live on the outskirts. The building she moved into was originally thought to be owned by Mekorot, the Israel water company that she paid her rent to for years, but she eventually found out the land was actually the property of the Israel Lands Authority (ILA).
About a year ago, she received notice that the ILA was suing her and trying to have her evicted off the land. She claims that she tried to contact the authority several times over the years in order to legalize her residence there, but no one ever responded to her inquiries until she received the notice that she might be evicted.
"Eviction will be a huge and disastrous blow to the breeding and preservation of the Canaan Dog, both here and in the world," wrote Shiboleth in a petition she created on Care 2's petition website. So far she has acquired over 2,100 signatures from people all over the world who support her mission.
Her family does not have enough money to buy new land and build more kennels if she is forced to leave her land, and she thinks the ILA has treated her unfairly.
"We feel that this is totally unfair and unreasonable, to not even be willing to meet with us, not to mention the fact that they ignored our presence on the land for 42 years," she said.
According to her kennel's website, the breed she loves so much is probably very similar to its ancient ancestors that lived during Bible times, and is well-equipped for life in the desert because they can survive in extreme heat with little water.
Richard Vulliet, a professor at UC Davis and co-owner of Magnum, a national champion Canaan dog in the U.S., told The Christian Post via email on Friday that "a dog much like a Canaan Dog probably led Moses down Mt. Sinai when he came down with the Stone Tablets."
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that there is archaeological evidence that points to the dog's ancient existence, including 1st-century rock carvings from Sinai and hundreds of dog skeletons found in Tel Aviv from the 5th century B.C.
Shiboleth says many purebred dogs suffer from health and genetic problems due to the limited genetic base of most breeds. The Canaan dog is an exception, however, because some of those that are still living in the wild can be added to the gene pool.
"The Canaan dog is one of the few breeds which has an existing reservoir of unrelated stock still living in natural conditions," she said. "This reservoir is disappearing fast, as the areas the dogs lived in become more and more populated [with humans]. It is very important that we bring into the gene pool ... [many] of these outside lines while we can, to insure that the breed continues as a healthy, sound dog with very few known genetic problems."
Shiboleth actively seeks out the breed in the wild, working with the camps of the Bedouin, an Arab minority group, in order to bring the dogs back to her kennel. But as more Bedouin move into the cities, The Washington Post reports, the dogs are forced to survive on their own in the desert or are mixing genes by mating with urban dogs.
Amanda Pough, president of The Canaan Dog Club of America, estimates that there are 500 or more Canaan dogs in the U.S. today, and about 3,000 in the entire world.
Pough says if Shiboleth was evicted, it probably wouldn't mean the end of the breed altogether, but the already small voice of a relatively unknown breed would shrink even more.
"Part of what Mrs. Shiboleth and the Sha'ar Hagai kennels offer to the Canaan Dog breed is an international voice. To preserve the breed, people have to know about the breed and the dogs," said Pough. "The work Mrs. Shiboleth does is unique, and her contacts in the dog world and with the Bedouin cannot be duplicated."