Israeli Ministers Vote Down Raft of Bills Backing Animal Rights

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An abandoned dog in Israel. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted down a number of animal rights bills Sunday, including one that sought constitutional protection for animal rights.

The committee did not support any of the bills, even though some had been cosponsored by members of the governing coalition. The rejection means the bills will not have the coalition’s support, effectively defeating them.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who is responsible for implementing the country’s animal protection laws, was the only committee member present for the discussion on the bills. In the event, he voted them down.

The legislation was submitted to the Knesset in the run-up to Animal Rights Day, which falls on Tuesday.

One bill would have required the licensing of dog breeders, while another would have increased fines for owners of dogs that are not neutered or spayed and are allowed to run free. Another would have required eggs to be labeled based on the type of coop the chicken was raised in; free-range, for example.

The group Anonymous for Animal Rights took Ariel to task, saying that many Israelis cared about animals while “the government has proved that it is divorced from public sentiment” on the issue.

According to the group, even though Ariel is responsible for protecting animal rights, he has opposed every effort to improve their lot, but Ariel denied this.

“During my tenure, we have done things in months that once took years, such as approving an important animal cruelty prevention law, toughening the punishment of offenders, increasing inspectors’ authority, and expanding owners’ responsibilities,” Ariel said in a statement.

Animal rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of abandoned dogs die every year, some of them put to death at pounds, while others die on the streets of hunger and neglect.

Two of the proposed bills aimed to prevent the abandonment of dogs. One sponsored by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) would have increased the fine to 3,000 shekels ($774) on owners of unneutered dogs caught on the loose. The fine would have been voided if the owners agreed to have their dogs spayed or neutered.

The proposed constitutional provision, a Basic Law on Animal Rights, was sponsored by MK Eyal Ben-Reuven (Zionist Union) and cosponsored by Knesset members from the governing Likud and Kulanu parties.

Under the Basic Law, pet owners would have been obligated to see to their animals’ needs, and the authorities would have been obligated to protect animal rights.

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