Knesset approves strict amendments to Animal Welfare Law in first reading

The amendments would establish the comprehensive obligation of an animal owner to safeguard an animal against abuse and provide for life's necessities.

Cows. Illustrative (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cows. Illustrative
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset plenum approved the first reading Monday of amendments to the Animal Welfare Law that aim to prevent animal abuse and to strengthen enforcement measures against violators.
Promoted by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, the amendments would establish the comprehensive obligation of an animal owner to safeguard the animal against abuse and provide for its necessities, such as proper healthcare, the minister’s office explained. Breach of this provision would constitute a criminal offense, not only for active abuse but also abuse through neglect, an amendment states.
A second amendment calls for up to four years’ imprisonment for those who actively abuse or abuse through neglect, causing animals severe pain. In addition, a court would also be able to forbid the individual from raising or possessing animals for a certain period of time, the bill states.
Intending to prevent a potential abuse crime before it occurs, a third amendment would enable detaining a potential offender before the person actually commits the violation, if there are reasonable grounds for suspicion. Such a measure could allow for the seizure of the animal from the owner.
A fourth amendment aims to expand an existing prohibition against live tissue cutting for ornamental purposes, particularly focusing on tail and ear clipping, as well as tattoos. The amendment would make possible the prosecution of a person who possesses an animal with clipped ears or tails, unless the individual can prove that the act was not performed by him or her.
In order to emphasize the responsibility of executives to supervise animal welfare from the top down, a fifth amendment proposes imposing criminal liability on the directors of a corporation charged with implementing regulations and overseeing employees. If a case of abuse occurs, the presumption would therefore be that the executive violated his or her duty, unless proven that he or she did everything possible to fulfill the relevant obligations.
A sixth amendment suggests determining that in some cases a facility may be deemed “protected” on an ad hoc basis, if a seized animal urgently needs a temporary place of residence. A seventh amendment establishes necessary conditions for an animal during both its temporary stay following evacuation, as well as those upon its return home.
In an eighth amendment, the legislation specifically calls for every person with the authority to treat and regulate animals to work to prevent their harm when making relevant decisions.
Following the Knesset vote to pass the amendments in the first reading, Ariel said he intends to strengthen the dialogue between his office and animal rights organizations, and will be holding a roundtable with representatives of these groups in the coming days.
In response to the initial approval of the amendments, the organization Anonymous for Animal Rights said that, overall, the group welcomes the legislation, whose provisions are capable of improving enforcement against animal rights violations.
“The amendment includes a series of important instruction that we requested in the past, and which have been expressed in some privately proposed bills,” a statement from the organization said. “However, there are some problems in the memorandum, which we hope can be fixed during legislative work, and the main test is to enforce the law on the ground.”
The organization pointed out that poultry company Soglowek, recently exposed on television for slaughterhouse abuse, still has yet to receive any indictment. Other previous such cases have likewise occurred without sufficient punishment, according to the group.
“The changes in the law are positive; we hope that the legislation process will be completed, and that we will also see a change of conduct in the field,” the Anonymous for Animal rights statement added.
Prior to the passage of the amendments on Monday, a wide range of MKs, as well as animal rights activists, attended the first session of the 20th Knesset’s Lobby for Animals. In addition to lobby co-chairs MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) and Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), participants included Ariel and Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay, as well as other politicians from a variety of parties, who gathered to discuss the importance of increased enforcement against animal rights violations.
Also among the attendees was the previous lobby co-chairman, former Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, who was awarded a golden dog statue for his work toward protecting animal rights.
After the approval of the amendments’ first reading, Lipman told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that “there is a spirit of change in the air regarding progress on preventing the suffering of animals in Israel.
“We now have an agricultural minister, Uri Ariel, who truly cares about the issue and, as this law shows, he plans to take action,” Lipman said. “The current public security minister, Gilad Erdan, is someone who I worked with on animal issues in the 19th Knesset and he will, without a doubt, be strict with enforcing the laws in this realm. This creates a real window of opportunity for real progress on this important Jewish and human value.”