More than 120 years after the invention of the automobile, horse-drawn wagons look set to disappear from Israel's roads later this year.
Sometime in the next few days, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz is expected to sign regulations barring any vehicle drawn by an animal from urban roads throughout Israel.
The ban follows pleas by animal welfare organizations, which argue that the work causes suffering to the animals.
For the most part, the only people who still use such vehicles are peddlers who collect old furniture and other used goods. The animals, usually horses, are rented to the peddlers by horse farms at a price of several dozen shekels per day. But to save on expenses, the peddlers often treat the horses poorly, activists say: They don't give them enough food, proper medical care or suitable stabling. Often, the horses end up dying of overwork or malnutrition.
Opponents of the vehicles also argue that they are a safety hazard, as they travel very slowly. That causes traffic jams and encourages drivers to try to pass even when they can't do so safely.
In response to the animal welfare groups' petition, a professional committee in the Transportation Ministry considered the matter and recommended that such vehicles be barred from all urban roads. Horse-drawn vehicles will still be permitted on kibbutzim and moshavim, however.
Once Katz signs off on the new rule, it will be submitted to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee for approval. It is expected to take effect within six months.