The Canaan dog is one of the oldest, more rare dog breeds in the world. Some even believe it was the first dog to be adopted by humans. But recently, Shaar Hagai Canaans, the only kennel in the world that specializes in the breed, was ordered closed by the Israeli government. Now the kennel’s owner has launched a Gofundme in the hopes of fighting back, or at least finding a new home for her dogs.
The kennel’s owner is Myrna Shiboleth, a celebrated breeder of the Canaan dog, and she’s worked hard to ensure the breed’s survival. Ever since moving to Israel from the United States nearly 46 years ago, she’s raised hundreds of Canaan dogs, a significant percentage of the breed’s population.
The Canaan dog is one of the oldest dog breeds known, having existed at least since biblical times, and earned special honor as the national dog of Israel. As Shiboleth points out, the Canaan dog is a natural breed, its DNA and make-up the same as it was before the animal was ever domesticated. Consequently, the Canaan dog is relatively free of the health and genetic problems afflicting newer breeds. Unfortunately, there is pressure on the Canaan dog because of the breed’s small surviving population. That pressure is sure to worsen if Shiboleth can’t find a new home to nurture the breed.
In the 1970s Shiboleth settled west of Jerusalem, on buildings unused since the early 20th century British occupation, to start her kennel. “We were looking for a place that wouldn’t bother anyone, that was isolated,” Shibboleth said. “The place had been abandoned since the British left.” She’s lived on the property ever since, which didn’t even have electricity or running water for her first 17 years on the property.
According to the Israel Land Authority, the property is owned by the state, and was never officially open for settlement. Six years ago, ILA land inspectors asked the residents to leave, but because of their refusal, the ILA chose to take legal action. In 2011, the ILA sued Shibboleth and other residents on the site, demanding that they vacate. Recently, Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court ruled in favor of the ILA, and now Shibboleth, 13 other residents of the site, and the kennel have been evicted. They must leave the property by mid April.
Shiboleth insists, “We never claimed to be the owners; we just wanted to live here.” Despite their best efforts over the years to arrange a rental agreement with the ILA, and a diligent effort to avoid altering the property, they were unable to settle their uncertain living situation. “Nobody asked us for rent; nobody was willing to talk to us at all,” Shiboleth said.
Shibboleth is crowdfunding on gofundme.com in the hopes of paying off her legal fees and relocating her kennel. So far she’s raised over $18,000 of her $25,000 goal. She’s filing an appeal but isn’t optimistic about the outcome. Finding a new home is the priority.
Shiboleth says the Canaan dog should be seen as an Israeli natural asset and contends that the government should invest in the preservation of the breed for coming generations, much like it protects other natural resources. As she puts it:
“This is one of the only breeds of dogs that still exists that is completely natural. We feel it’s very important to preserve them, because they are Israeli and because they are the original dog. This is the dog that existed for thousands of years, exactly as he is now.”
We’ll update the story as it develops. Here’s hoping that this rare and special breed finds a new home and a fresh opportunity to prosper.