חוקים בעלי חיים


Animal Protection in Israeli Law

Animals in Israel have rights, which are enshrined in a variety of laws and in the rulings of the courts. But those rights are very limited. In the animal food industries and in laboratories, animals are treated as machines and research test tubes, and depriving them of almost every basic need. On the streets they’re a target for killing. Stores treat them like merchandise. In the wild, their homes are destroyed in favor of establishing cities and roads. Even when adopted as part of the family, they often suffer from neglect, and their needs are the last to be considered.

Some of these acts of cruelty are against the law, which is not properly enforced. Some of these acts of cruelty have not yet been banned. In the legal department of Let the Animals Live, we are constantly working to expand the legal protection of animals, and to enforce the protection that already exists.


Prohibition of abuse

The main law protecting animals is the Animal Welfare Act of 1994. The main prohibition in the Animal Welfare Act is the prohibition of abuse. Those who abused animals will be sentenced to up to three years in prison and a high fine – and in some cases up to four years in prison.

But what is abuse?

The Supreme Court has ruled that abuse is any unjustified harming to animals.

The harming can be by way of causing physical or mental suffering – and not necessarily particularly acute suffering. The harming could be by killing an animal.

The court ruled that it is not necessary for the perpetrator to act out of sadism, so that we would define his actions as abuse. Most animal injuries are done to benefit from them or out of indifference to their needs. Most people who harm animals do not do so out of cruelty or hatred towards animals—sometimes they are people who love animals in other contexts, or care about the animals that depend on them, but they do not care enough. But what difference does it make to the animal if whoever hurt it did so out of sadism or out of indifference? Therefore, harming an animal that was not done out of sadism is also abuse – if it was not justified.

The point that seems extremely complicated in the prohibition of abuse is the question of justification. We need to see if harming the animal was justified (and therefore legal) or was unjustified, and it is abuse. How to check it out?

The simplest case is when we give an animal medical treatment. The capture of the animal, his holding in the cage, the injections, the surgeries – all of this cause him suffering, and for the most part he also does not realize that it is in his best interest, and certainly does not know how long this suffering will last. The physical suffering is also accompanied by anxiety. But, of course, this suffering is justified because it is intended to heal the animal.

But what about less obvious cases? In cases like this, we have to ask four questions.:

  1. What is the purpose of harming the animal and is it justified? Sometimes the harm is done for a purpose that in itself is wrong — for example, to satisfy the urges of violence. In cases like this, it’s abuse. But what if the purpose of harm is livelihood, preventing nuances, security, imparting knowledge or other objectives that are in themselves positive? In this case, we will move on to the following question:
  2. Does the harm serve the purpose? Sometimes people claim that harming animals is justified, because it is intended to achieve a good goal – but when we actually check, it turns out that there is no connection between the harm and that goal. In these cases, it’s abuse. For example, people shoot pigeons on the grounds that this will prevent the hazards that pigeons can cause. But as long as there are food and hiding places that attract pigeons, new pigeons will appear, and the population will grow again. Preventing hazards is a proper purpose, but there is no connection between pigeon shooting and preventing hazards.

But sometimes people are rational, and harming animals does advance the goal they’re trying to achieve. In such situations, we will move on to the following question:

  1. Is it possible to achieve the purpose by other means that do not harm animals or that their harm to animals is less? In many cases the answer is yes. For security purposes, security cameras can be used instead of dogs, and if dogs are used, you do not have to hold them tied to a cable. If you want to produce eggs, you can keep the chickens in chicken coops without cages: the chickens do suffer in these chicken coops as well, but less so when kept in cages. Those who chose to achieve their goal by means of harming animals, even though they could choose a means that do not harm animals, or whose harm is less – such a person is guilty of abuse.

But what happens after understanding all possible means, the person has already chosen the means that harms animals to the least extent possible (or there simply is no alternative means)? In this case, we move on to the last question:

  1. Is there a proportion between harming the animal and the goal that man was trying to achieve? Not every goal will justify any measure of suffering. Thus, for example, the court ruled that in balancing the livelihood of the geese breeders (by force-feeding) with the suffering of geese, the livelihood of the breeders does not justify causing such acute suffering to animals. In another case, the court ruled that human comfort or well-being does not justify significant harm to cats, let alone killing them.

Of course, in many cases the answer to these questions may vary from person to person and from judge to judge. It is also possible to phrase the questions differently about the same case! Thus, for example, in one example we asked “Is it possible to produce eggs in a way that harms chickens to a lesser extent?”. You could also ask, “Is it possible to produce healthy, cheap and delicious food without harming chickens?”. The answer is, of course, that it is possible. Even from a personal-moral point of view, we can use these series of questions to decide for ourselves what abuse is. The answers given may differ from those given by the court. The way the court will formulate the questions, and the answers it will give them, will coordinate what is acceptable in society, and will change as social changes occur.


Particular prohibitions

With regard to certain behaviors, the law saves the need to check whether they are justified or not, constitute abuse or not, but explicitly states that they are prohibited. If the prohibition of abuse is a broad and principled prohibition, these prohibitions are named “particular prohibitions.”

Thus, for example, the law prohibits inciting an animal against another animal, and to organize battles between animals (such as dogfights or cockfights). Such battles are brutal, and the animals come out injured or killed – all within the framework of entertainment which sanctifies violence.

Another prohibition is on surgeries intended for “ornament” purposes. Most often these are surgery to cut the tail and ears in dogs, designed to adapt the look of the dog to one thoroughbred model or another. Following a petition to the High Court of Let the Animals Live, the clause is sharpened in a way that it is clear that the prohibition also applies to tattooing and painting an animal in a way that damages or penetrates live tissue: the phenomenon exists mainly in fish. Another type of surgery explicitly prohibited by law (with very narrow exceptions) is the extraction of the nails of cats. Cutting of organs also exist for other purposes, especially in agricultural farms, and the prohibition on cutting for ornament purposes does not apply to them.

An important particular prohibition is the prohibition of abandonment of animals. There’s perhaps nothing more treacherous than abandoning an animal, or anything more heartbreaking than an abandoned animal. Since it is difficult to prove the act of abandonment, the law also states that an animal found abandoned—by default was abandoned by the person who recently held it, and he is the one who must prove that the animal was not abandoned by him (but, for example, lost or kidnapped).

Another prohibition refers to the forcing of an animal that is unable to work due to its physical condition and to the forcing of an animal to work beyond its ability.

Animal poisoning with strychnine is also specifically prohibited by law, because it is a particularly cruel poison, as is the use of muscle-paralyzers (including the substance succinylcholine). The use of strychnine and these substances is permitted only with the veterinary services administration’s permit.


The responsibility of the person who keeps animals

One of the most important provisions of the law, alongside the prohibition of abuse, is that the owner of an animal or the person who holds him must provide him with the needs of his livelihood, take care of his health and prevent abuse to him.

This provision is significant to people who keep animals as “pets” but in many cases neglect them. Adopting an animal is a great responsibility: it is necessary to learn its needs, to address health problems (treatment that is sometimes expensive), and to devote time and attention to other needs of the animal (health, mental, social and behavioral) so that it will not degenerate physically and mentally.

This provision also applies to those who keep animals for economic purposes, such as in agricultural farms. They must take care of the needs of the animals, too. Those who do not care for sick or injured animals or do not provide the animals with an adequate habitat and conditions that meet their needs – violate this instruction.

This provision is especially important in large economic frameworks, where the owner of the animals is a large corporation, and those who come into contact with them are salaried employees. In such a situation, the corporation is responsible for the living conditions of the animals and the prevention of abuse to them. In fact, this provision was added to the law as one of the lessons of the “Red Red” case in which Tnuva Group workers were prosecuted for abuse, but the company itself evaded criminal liability.

A few legal words: This provision creates a duty of do, and is not conditioned on the result. That is, a person who has violated the obligation to satisfy the livelihood necessities of the animal in his possession has been committed an offense, and there is no need to prove that in practice there has been suffering for the animal. If suffering was caused to the animal, the person can also be charged with the offense of abuse (which is an offense that is conditioned on the result of causing suffering). In this case, violating the obligation to provide the animal with the needs of its livelihood allows prosecution for abuse by non-action.


Who is responsible for implementing the law?

The central government office responsible for implementing the Animal Welfare Act is the Ministry of Agriculture. Inside the office sit the veterinary services, in which the Commissioner of the Animal Welfare Law acts, which coordinates the issue and holds powers by law. Law enforcement is also done through other employees of the veterinary services and through the PIZU”H unit – which is a kind of policing unit of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Some of the powers under the Animal Welfare Law are in the hands of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which established an animal protection division. The Ministry of Environmental Protection also coordinates the activities of the Animal Welfare Fund, and is responsible for the activities of the Nature and Parks Authority, which deals with the protection of wildlife.

The police, of course, play an important role in the criminal enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act – in the investigation of offenses and prosecution.

Local authorities are also committed to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act within their borders.

As you can see, the number of parties committed to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act is large. Actual enforcement, however, is weak. One of the main functions of animal protection organizations is to motivate the elements that are supposed to enforce the law, and make them to do their job.


The role of animal protection organizations

When a person’s rights are violated, he can in certain situations complain to the police, but he also has the option to go to court himself. And what about animals?

Animals cannot go to courts themselves – for obvious technical reasons. The law resolves this by authorizing animal protection organizations to go to the courts and seek orders that prevent violations of the law and the corresponding regulations. Animal protection organizations are a kind of representatives or guardians of the animals, who make their voices heard and act on their behalf. Let the Animals Live was ordained under the Animal Welfare Act to go to the courts, and we do so regularly. Over the years, we have turned to courts in cases of animal neglect in homes, abject conditions of possession in markets and shops, possession of dogs in the military without shaded space as required by the regulations, dumping chicks in garbage in hatcheries, fattening of geese and more. Our first lawsuit, to stop a violent act in Hamat Gader, described as a “man-crocodile battle,” led to an important precedent in which the rule was established regarding the interpretation of the prohibition of abuse in the Animal Welfare Law.

In one of the precedents achieved by Let the Animals Live, it was determined that animal protection organizations can represent the interests of animals not only in procedures determined by the Animal Welfare Act but also in other procedures. In that case, it was a lawsuit filed by academic institutions against EL AL, in which they tried to attack its policy not to fly animals intended for experiments. The court decided to attach the animal protection organizations to the case, to make the voices of the animals that could have been affected by EL AL’s policy change.

Animal protection organizations, and Let the Animals Live in particular, make the animals’ voices heard frequently in the courts, also in administrative proceedings and in the High Court – on any issue in which animals may be harmed. Let the Animals Live have submitted over the years petitions on a wide range of topics: experiments on animals, construction programs which harm animals, particularly cruel agricultural practices, a lenient plea agreement with abusers and much more. In the Knesset and with the state authorities, the animal protection organizations are also the bodies that represent the interests of animals, and have achieved broad recognition as the voices of the animals.


Law and Regulations

The prohibition on abuse in the Animal Welfare Act is broad and inclusive, as is the obligation of those who keep animals to provide them with their livelihood necessities. The law also includes some particular prohibitions, but these concern relatively narrow circumstances. The regulations complement the general provisions of the law, and establish simple, clear and relatively precise rules regarding how animals are kept in various circumstances.

The regulations are installed by the Minister of Agriculture with the approval of the Knesset Education Committee, and unfortunately, although the Animal Welfare Law was enacted back in 1994, in many areas there are still no regulations. The existing regulations were installed only due to pressure from animal protection organizations – often following a petition to the High Court.

These are the issues currently regulated by the Regulations under the Animal Welfare Act:

  • Animal shows, and their use on TV or movies and commercials. The main rule is that such use is prohibited if it involves suffering for the animals. Each show requires a pre-permit from the Commissioner of the Animal Welfare Law at the Ministry of Agriculture. For many years, there has been almost no animal circus in Israel: the prohibition began with the decision of the late Minister Yossi Sarid, when he was Minister of Environmental Protection. Today, the prohibition is based, among other things, on the regulations of animal shows.
  • Transport of cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. The regulations establish rules regarding transport durations, how to load and unload, which animals are prohibited from transport, the structure of trucks and cages, and other issues. Unfortunately, the regulations allow for very long transport, very densely, without food and water – and regarding poultry even without the possibility of standing upright. More than a million poultry die in Israel every year only during their transport from the farm to the slaughterhouse.
  • The holding of milk calves. Although regulations prohibit particularly cruel practices that existed in the industry in the past (such as keeping calves in cells that do not allow them any movement, and not even sleeping in a natural position), they allow for other cruel practices. Thus, for example, the regulations do not prohibit holding calves very densely (albeit in groups) in exposed and stimuli-free pens. The regulations do not prohibit from feeding the calves almost exclusively liquid food – contrary to their nature and needs. The regulations also do not prohibit causing calves severe anemia – although there is a limit on the severity of anemia relative to what was previously accepted in the industry.
  • Holding pigs in the meat industry. The pork industry in Israel kills about 200,000 pigs every year. The regulations regarding holding of pigs determine their living conditions. The regulations prohibit some particularly cruel practices that used to be practiced in the past, such as keeping pregnant female pigs in cells that do not allow them any movement. The regulations set maximum density in pig pens, and require that pigs be provided with environmental enrichment. The regulations do not prohibit the execution of mutilation operations in pigs: in the industry it is common to cut the tails of pigs, cut their teeth and neuter them. However, instructions on the use of painkillers were established. For more information on the pig regulations and their legislative procedures, see Yossi Wolfson’s article “The Pig Years”
  • Holding animals not for agricultural purposes. These regulations set minimum conditions for the possession of animals anywhere except in agricultural industries and laboratories. The regulations apply to those who keep animals in the house, to pet stores, to zoos and petting zoos, to kennels, municipal kennels and pensions, to riding farms, to those who use horses and donkeys to pull carriages and much more. The regulations state that animals have physical, health, behavioral, mental, and social needs that need to be gratified. In view of the great variety of animals and the circumstances of possession, the regulations cannot establish full and comprehensive instructions – and therefore they are satisfied with setting minimum conditions that are an absolute red line that must not be breached under any circumstances.

Among other things, the regulations establish instructions regarding the feeding of the animals; their environmental conditions; natural behaviors that should be allowed (such as hiding, burrowing, climbing, accessing a water pool, standing on a branch); their protection from harassment and various risks; the minimal size of the cages that hold them; Their medical care and more. Special instructions prohibit separating animals from the mammal department from their mothers before weaning age, and preventing the proper imprinting of birds (imprinting is the process by which the chick identifies his parent, connect to him, and adapts to the identity of the biological species to which it belongs). The regulations also deal with tethering of animals, stating that an animal should not be tethered regularly without release for physical activity. A series of special instructions apply to what the regulations define as facilities: habitats, shelters, zoos, shops, municipal kennels, petting zoos, pensions, riding farms and more. These provisions establish arrangements designed to ensure the proper treatment of animals in such frameworks, to prevent harm by the visitors and to ensure that the delivery of animals is carried out responsibly.

The regulations are very detailed. We have prepared a guide that explains the regulations in the context of stores and you are welcome to review it.

It is always important to remember that the regulations do not detract from the prohibition of abuse set out in the law. The prohibition of abuse applies both when a particular issue is not regulated by the regulations, and when the regulations establish an arrangement that supposedly allows unnecessary harm to animals – a harm that is prohibited by law.


Cats in the urban environment

One of the important successes of Let the Animals Live is in the fight against the mass poisonings of cats in the urban environment, which existed in the past. Thanks to our struggle, the strategy used today to prevent overcrowding of the cat population is the method of sterilization and return. The state allocates NIS 4.5 million annually for sterilization and return, and twice we had to petition the High Court to ensure that this budget was indeed used for the purpose for which it was intended.

When it comes to the treatment of complaints of cat nuisance by local authorities, the Supreme Court has ruled that human comfort or well-being are not grounds for killing cats or causing considerable suffering to them. In these cases, we have to settle for measures such as sterilization and castration, installation of measures to prevent cats from entering places where they are not desirable, and so on – even if the effectiveness of these measures is not absolute. In this context, it is important to emphasize that relocating cats from their place of livelihood and dumping them elsewhere constitutes a very serious harm to them, as territorial animals, may even lead to their deaths and constitutes in itself abuse (see here – opinion of the legal advice of the police on the matter). Even when there is a health risk to humans or there is a serious and severe harm to the well-being of society, which borders on disruption of normal lifestyles, it is necessary to distinguish between risk and risk, and to first exhaust measures that do not harm cats.

When it comes to feeding cats, the rule is similar: feeding cats is permitted as long as it does not cause a nuisance that is a serious and severe harm to the well-being of society, which borders on disruption of normal lifestyles. The court ruled that fines should not be imposed on feeding cats except in such rare and unusual situations (see cat feeding verdict in Jerusalem). We recommend applying responsible feeding while ensuring cleanliness and sanitation, preventing harassment of neighbors and bystanders, and avoiding creating hostility that may lead to retaliate against cats.

When feeding is done in the area of shared property (and even when it is not a condominium – when there are neighbors who may be affected by the feeding) the rule is that every neighbor is entitled to reasonable use of the common property and each person is entitled to reasonable use of his home and land. Reasonable use includes the variety of uses of the various tenants, including the possibility of feeding cats.

Harassment of cat feeders by their neighbors is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. Cats often become hostages of neighborly disputes on a different background. If a neighbor harasses you, threatens to harm cats or demands that you stop feeding them, you can print the letter you find here and hang it on the billboard in the building or distribute to the relevant mailboxes. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the feeding of cats is done responsibly, while minimizing the disruption to the neighbors.

What are, therefore, our recommendations for proper feeding:

  • It is recommended to consider the places where we will put the food for cats. There is a preference for places that are relatively remote from permanent uses of human beings, and that are relatively hidden. More successful ideas are for example: a remote corner in a back garden; behind garbage cans; at the end of a parking lot. Less successful ideas are for example: in the stairwell or at the entrance to the building.
  • It is recommended to consider the feeding hours. Feeding at times when there is less movement of people (such as nighttime) will generate fewer objections.
  • It is recommended to consider the type of food. Dry food creates fewer odors and the potential for dirt. Using leftover food has an environmental advantage over throwing them away, but they can create nuisance of dirt and smell. Therefore, using leftover food should be taken with measures such as placing the food on a newspaper sheet or container, and collecting leftover food after the cats have finished eating what they wanted.
  • It is recommended to consider how to feed. There is an advantage to feeding in dishes (which can be collected and rinsed or thrown) or on a newspaper paper (which can be discarded for recycling) over placing the food directly in the place used for feeding.
  • It is important to notice that the feeding place will be clean, aesthetic and tidy, and to prevent smells and accumulation of dirt and fat stains.
  • Hunger and thirst are not the only problems for cats. If we really want to help them, it is important that we take care of their well-being in other aspects as well. A sterilized and neutered cat population ensures that every cat has more health and well-being, and there is no severe and widespread phenomenon of kittens’ mortality. A cat that appears to be suffering, it is important to take to medical attention. A simple medical problem can cause great suffering and death if left untreated. The Let the Animals Live Clinic provides medical care at subsidized prices.



The Animal Welfare Act applies to all animals (or rather, all vertebrates). Wildlife is also protected by the Wildlife Protection Act.

The Wildlife Protection Act lays out its protection of any animal that it is not its nature to live with humans. That is, the law applies not only to wild animals in the wild, but also to animals held captive. The law also protects wild animals born in captivity and who will find it difficult to return to nature, provided that they are a species that normally live in the wild. Thus, for example, wild animals in zoos, parrots and snakes in shops and private homes, monkeys in laboratories, crocodiles on breeding farms – all are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act. The law also establishes arrangements regarding products derived from wild animals (such as furs, ivory fittings and stuffed animals).

The Wildlife Protection Act has two main objectives, intertwine: protecting the welfare of animals as individuals, and protecting the biological species to which they belong, in order to preserve biodiversity and protect nature and the ecosystem.

The Wildlife Protection Act creates a regime of permits. It is forbidden to hold a wild animal, import it, export it or trade it except with a permit. Import and export permits are conditional, inter alia, on compliance with the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Plant and Animal Species (CITES Convention). Israel also prohibits the import of wildlife in the framework of circuses and the export of monkeys for experiments.

Hunting of wild animals is prohibited except according to a hunting license or hunting permit (a hunting license is a license granted to a person engaged in hunting as a recreational activity, and is limited to specific types and specified numbers of animals; a hunting permit is granted within the framework of concrete purposes such as preventing harm to agriculture. Most hunting in Israel is most likely done through hunting permits). The law also establishes a series of prohibited hunting methods. Unfortunately, in practice the permit regime is very flexible, and the effects of hunting of wildlife, trafficking and holding them captive are very broad.

Another law that protects wildlife is the National Parks Act, which establishes protected natural values and nature reserves.


Animal experimentation

When the Animal Welfare Act was enacted, the bodies engaged in animal experimentation worked intensively to enable these experiments with a minimum of external intervention. The result was that the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act do not apply to animal experimentation, and instead enacted a specific law on animal experimentation.

The guiding principle of the Animal Experimentation Act is similar to that in the Animal Welfare Act: animal suffering must not be caused without justification. In order to apply this principle, it was determined that it is forbidden to conduct experiments on animals except in an institution that has been approved for this, and by a researcher who has received approval for this. In addition, each experiment requires prior approval. The law states that the suffering of animals should be minimized, that the number of animals should be minimized, and that an animal experiment should not be carried out when the purpose of the experiment can be achieved in a reasonable alternative way.

But what are the mechanisms that are supposed to test things? Most of the experiments are submitted for approval in the internal committees of each institution, which are attended by the employees of the institution who are colleagues of those who wish to conduct the experiment, and who conduct experiments on animals themselves. The national oversight of the field is in the hands of a council that has an automatic majority for stakeholders in animal experimentation. A special arrangement is established for experiments in the security system, which according to information published from time to time in Israel and abroad often reach extremely harsh levels of cruelty. A vast blanket of secrecy lies on the entire field.

The experimenters are trying to convince the public that animal experimentation is essential to promoting human health. “It’s either the dog or the kid.” They ask us to believe. In practice, many of the experiments do not even claim to promote human health. They are designed to invent more effective methods for the production of eggs, meat and milk; satisfy human curiosity and expand knowledge to its name; develop weapons and more. Even the experiments that purport to deal with human diseases should raise question marks: the differences between humans and animals and between human diseases and artificial models of them in animals do not allow to analogize from animal experiments to human medicine.