Legislation Committee Backs Bill to Toughen Punishment for Animal Abuse

MK Itzik Shmuli’s bill would make prison term mandatory for those convicted, with maximum sentence increased to five years.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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An abandoned dog in Israel. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a bill that would introduce a mandatory prison sentence for anyone convicted of animal abuse. The bill also calls for the maximum sentence to be increased from three to five years.

The bill, sponsored by MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), was initiated by a nonprofit group that advocates for animal rights. Similar proposals have been rejected in recent years, but Shmuli received cross-party support when he collected the signatures of 80 MKs last May for his bill, which would amend the current law.

The law now stipulates that anyone abusing or torturing an animal is subject to three years in prison or a fine of up to 226,000 shekels (nearly $60,000). The remarks accompanying Shmuli’s bill state that “in practice, only a small fraction of abuse cases come to the attention of the authorities – more worrisome is the fact that penalties imposed by the courts are laughable.” A few examples are given, among them a three-month suspended sentence for a man who tied his dog to his car and dragged him behind, causing serious injuries. Another man received a suspended sentence and a 1,000-shekel fine for killing his dog by throwing it out of a window.

“In addition to the terrible abuse of these miserable animals,” the bill wrote, “these cases indicate the moral and social deterioration of Israeli society. It’s hard to accept that a thief can get seven years, while the abuse or killing of a living creature brings a maximum of three years – which is easily converted into a fine. The amended law will make clear that protecting animals is an important feature in the moral development of Israeli society.”

The bill will now advance to the Knesset, where the plenum will vote on whether to amend the existing law.

Animal rights groups signaled their support of the decision. “We welcome the approval of the new bill and thank MK Shmuli and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel for their support. It’s vital that legislators stress the importance of protecting animals,” said Let the Animals Live.

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