Israeli dog owners could fork out thousands under revived haredi bill

Past coalition members claimed the bill was a 'tit for tat' move in response to Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman's tax on plastic utensils.

 People seen with their dogs in downtown Jerusalem on January 14, 2021 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
People seen with their dogs in downtown Jerusalem on January 14, 2021
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

A bill proposed by United Torah Judaism (UTJ) lawmakers earlier this year sought to significantly raise the registration fee for dog owners in Israel, from a mere NIS 50 to NIS 3,500 annually.

The proposed bill, which then-coalition members claimed was a 'tit for tat' move in response to Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman's tax on plastic utensils, could be revived now that UTJ is set to join interim prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's brewing government.

The haredi dog tax and saving the planet

The bill, which was originally drafted by UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev in April, proposed to raise the annual fee for spayed or neutered dogs which the haredi lawmakers called an "environmental tax." In addition, owners of at least two dogs would have to pay NIS 7,000 per year.

Gafni said at the time that this "environmental fee will reflect the great damage done to the environment caused by raising dogs, who harm the delicate ecological balance," meaning the bill is consistent with the 'polluter pays' principle, a commonly accepted practice in environmental law in which the producer of said pollution is held responsible and should bear the costs of managing and preventing damage caused due to this pollution.

Gafni and Maklev drafted the bill as opposition lawmakers and are now sitting at the winner's table, following their bloc's election victory. The bill, even if originally drafted to "troll" the outgoing government, must be viewed as a part of a cultural worldview on environmental protection.

 MK's Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev speaks during a meeting of the United Torah Judaism party at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) MK's Moshe Gafni and Uri Maklev speaks during a meeting of the United Torah Judaism party at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

It was written in the drafted bill that "research from across the world indicates that raising pets, especially those who are fed processed meat, carries serious ecological implications," citing a 2017 US report that stated pets alone consumed some 43 billion kg. of meat.

"Other studies have shown that the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by a domesticated dog is twice that is produced by an SUV," it was further noted.

Therefore, Gafni and Maklev claimed that the former government's "attempts [to protect the environment] focused only on Israelis of a lower socio-economic status.

"[The government] did not touch the serious environmental destruction caused as a result of the consumption and behavioral habits of a segment of the Israeli population commonly referred to as 'First Israel,'" the ultra-Orthodox MKs said.

Who will be most affected by a dog bill?

According to the national dog registration database compiled by the Agriculture Ministry's veterinary department, Tel Aviv is unsurprisingly leading the way in terms of the sheer amount of canines registered in the city, with 39,373 new dogs registered during 2020. Rishon Lezion scored second with 17,720 dogs registered while Haifa rounded up the top three with 16,585 new dogs. The ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit is at the bottom of the list.

Tel Aviv also tops the list of cities that are home to families who own more than one dog, with some 2,998 homes in the city registered as owning multiple dogs.

Cat owners will be disappointed to learn that the bill also mentioned an intention to expand the dog bill, if passed, to apply also to other household pets, such as felines.