The Israel Air Force will no longer be allowed to chain guard dogs to the fences surrounding its bases for more than 12 hours a day, says an amendment to the Animal Cruelty Law.

Under the new regulations signed into effect recently by Agriculture Minister Orit Noked, most dog owners will be allowed to tie up the animals no more than nine hours a day. But after insistent opposition from the Defense Ministry and the army, a loophole was created stating that the Agriculture Ministry may permit institutions under the Defense Ministry's control to keep dogs chained up for up to 12 hours at a time.

The air force currently ties hundreds of guard dogs to fences with short chains 24 hours a day.

"This is an ugly and cruel phenomenon, and unfortunately, the State of Israel, and especially the air force, are the most prominent representatives of this terrible phenomenon," said Jonathan Shpigel, a lawyer for the animal rights group Let the Animals Live.

The group estimates there are thousands of dogs permanently tied up in Israel, many of which are guard dogs.

The law now states that offenders may be sentenced up to six months in jail and charged up to NIS 1,000 per violation.

Until the recent change, the law stated that dogs may be tied up for more than five consecutive hours only if they have access to at least 16 square meters of land, the chain is at least 1.5 meters long, and the dog has free access to shelter. But though the law said owners had to offer breaks for physical activity, it did not state how long the breaks should be or how frequently they had to take place.