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Back to Regulations Concerning the Private Possession of Big Cats

I.  Protection of Wild Animals

Israel is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).[1]  CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.  The obligations undertaken by Israel for the preservation of endangered species apply to various types of big cats.

Israel’s Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955,[2] as amended, regulates the hunting, trade, transfer and possession of wild animals.  A wild animal is defined by the law as “a mammal or bird which does not by its nature live in association with man.”[3]  The law defines a “protected wild animal” as an animal that has not been defined by the Minister of Agriculture as a “game animal” or a “pest.”[4]

The hunting of any “protected wild animals,” including big cats, is prohibited except with a special license.  Such a license may generally be granted for scientific purposes, for breeding animals, for keeping animals’ balance in nature, for preventing harm to agriculture or danger to humans or animals, or for the prevention of the spread of contagious diseases.[5] 

The law authorizes the Minister of Agriculture to issue regulations for the protection and preservation of wild animals, as well as for hunting and disposal of hunted animals.[6]

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II.  Accreditation of Facilities for Keeping Big Cats

An owner or a person under the control or care of whom animals are kept must inform the city veterinarian of the local authority of the types of animals and the location of their captivity.  The owner or the keeper of these animals is not allowed to operate the facility where the animals are kept unless he or she received a confirmation from the city veterinarian affirming receipt of the notification.[7]

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III.  Requirements for Keeping Wild Animals in Captivity

The Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) Law, 5744-1994[8] provides general requirements for the protection of animals. It prohibits cruelty to animals and regulates the treatment and killing of suffering animals.  The law also authorizes the Minister of Environment Protection to appoint supervisors for its implementation. 

The treatment of big cats in captivity is regulated by the Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) (Possession not for Agricultural Purposes) Regulations 5769-2009[9] (hereafter the regulations), issued in accordance with the law.

A.  Operation of Zoos

A person who is responsible for the operation of a facility for the keeping of animals, including big cats, is required to have “the necessary knowledge for the holding and treatment of animals of the kind [present] in the facility.”[10]  Such a person must be present at the facility at any time it is open for visitors.[11]

According to the regulations, workers employed at a zoo must be trained to comply with the regulations and their number must be sufficient to carry out the regulations’ requirements.[12]

B.  Supervision of Animals

An owner of a facility that keeps animals must install a sign prohibiting the feeding and touching of animals without the presence of a person responsible for the facility’s operation.[13]  Feeding an animal may be authorized if in the opinion of a person responsible for the facility’s operation (hereafter the responsible person) the feeder knows how to do so without causing the animal pain or suffering.[14]

The responsible person must employ any means reasonable under the circumstances to prevent harm or harassment of animals in captivity at any time, including when the facility is closed to the public.[15]  In addition, such person must ensure a daily review of equipment and of the animals in the facility, in order to identify any problems or signs of animals’ distress or disease.[16]

In addition, the responsible person should generally not leave animals in the facility without supervision for a period exceeding twenty-six consecutive hours.[17]  He or she must also pose a clear sign with the contact information of a person who is in charge of the facility’s operation when it is closed.[18]  

C.  Medical Supervision

The regulations impose specific requirements regarding medical treatment of animals in captivity.  Animals must be examined by a veterinarian at least once a month[19] and within a reasonable time if they show signs of disease or injury.[20]  A register must be compiled of all signs of disease and distress identified, the type of examinations and treatment provided, and the name, signatures and license number of the treating veterinarian.[21]  The regulations require isolation of animals that were identified or suspected as having contracted contagious diseases.[22]

D.  Accommodations Requirements

The regulations require that keepers of wild animals provide them with adequate living conditions and spaces of certain dimensions depending on their size,[23] including

  • ventilated living spaces,[24]
  • protection from climate and lighting conditions that significantly deviate from those to which animals of their kind are naturally accustomed to,[25]
  • living spaces that include at least one wall that is not exposed to the public for animals that are exposed to the public,[26] and
  • the possibility to climb for animals that are used to climbing.[27]

The regulations prohibit endangering animals by placing several of them together if such placement enables the infliction of serious harm by one against the other.  This prohibition does not apply to animals that cannot be fed except by consuming other live animals.[28]

E.  Permission for Breeding

A search for rules governing breeding of big cats has not identified any specific requirements.  It is assumed, therefore, that general rules regarding health and safety of such animals would govern this topic.

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IV.  Trade in Wild Animals

The trade in wild animals is regulated by the Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955,[29] as amended.  In accordance with regulations issued under this law, trading in wild animals is prohibited in the absence of a special permit to be issued by the Minister of Agriculture with the consent of the Head of Veterinary Services.  A permit will not be granted unless it complies with requirements enumerated in CITES.[30]

Possession of such animals similarly require a special license that may be granted by the Minister of Agriculture under specific limitations or conditions that may be voided or amended at any time.[31]

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V.  Research on Animals

Research on animals with vertebra, excluding those defined as “protected animals” under Israel’s Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955,[32] as amended, is regulated by the Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Law, 5754-1994,[33] as amended (hereafter the HTAE Law).

A.  Academic Experiments

The HTAE Law establishes a high level committee (hereafter the Civilian Committee) on experiments on animals that includes twenty-three members, including six representatives of the national academy of science, two deans of medical schools in Israel, and three representatives of associations for the humane treatment of animals.[34]  The Civilian Committee is authorized to grant permission for the conduct of experiments on animals in accordance with the requirements established by the law.

The HTAE Law requires that experiments on animals must be conducted in a way that will minimize the number of animals involved and their level of pain.[35]  Permission for experiments will not be granted if there are alternative ways to achieve the research goals.[36]  It will similarly not be granted for examination of cosmetic products that are not medically necessary or for cleaning products.[37]  The Civilian Committee may issue rules for conducting experiments.[38]

In accordance with regulations issued by the Civilian Committee with the approval of the Minister of Health,[39] the approval of experiments on animals requires compliance with rules published by the United States National Research Council’s Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals[40] regarding the following activities:

(1)   Purchase and transfer of animals;

(2)   Physical constraint of an animal;

(3)   Identification of pain;

(4)   Sedation and anesthesia;

(5)   Euthanasia of animals.[41]

The regulations provide that the Civilian Committee will not authorize repeated experiments on an animal that has already undergone experimentation except under conditions guaranteeing the minimization of pain or the provision of full anesthesia to the animal during the experiment, followed by its killing at the end.[42]  The regulations require any authorized researcher to obtain training in minimization of pain in experimentation of animals.[43]

The HTAE Law authorizes the Minister of Health to appoint a veterinarian for the position of supervisor of institutions where research on animals is conducted.[44]  The supervisor may visit such institutions any time without prior notice to ensure compliance with the requirements of the law.[45]

B.  Experiments in the Department of Defense

The HTAE Law contains a special chapter regulating experiments on animals that are conducted by the Department of Defense. It authorizes the Minister of Defense to appoint a Committee for Experiments on Animals (hereafter the Defense Committee).  The Defense Committee is headed by a veterinarian and is composed of a researcher from live sciences, a licensed physician, a jurist, a holder of academic degree in social sciences or the humanities, and a public representative who is not a civil servant and who does not engage in experiments on animals.[46]

The Defense Committee enjoys the same authorities of those enjoyed by the Civilian Committee[47] and is guided, to the extent possible, by rules adopted by the Civilian Committee. The Defense Committee may deviate from such rules if it is convinced, for reasons that should be written, that the deviation is required for reasons of state security.[48]  Similarly to civilian experiments, experiments on animals that are conducted in the Department of Defense can be inspected by a veterinarian appointed as a supervisor of defense experiments.[49]

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VI.  Penalties

A.  Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-195

Trade in wild animals, or violations of regulations issued by the Minister of Agriculture including those in connection with disposal of hunted animals, is punishable by one year imprisonment or a fine.[50] Unauthorized hunting is punishable by two years imprisonment or a fine.[51]  In case of an ongoing offense the court is further authorized to impose two additional days of imprisonment or a fine for every day in which the offense continues to be perpetrated starting the day on which the defendant was notified of his conviction.[52]

B.  Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) Law, 5744-1994

Cruelty to animals, including by inflicting torture, harassment and inciting animals to fight each other, is punishable by three years imprisonment or a fine.[53]  Offenses such as desertion of animals, pulling out their fingernails, employment of sick animals, and their killing by poison are punishable by one year imprisonment or a fine.[54]

C.  Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) (Possession Not for Agricultural Purposes) Regulations, 5769-2009

Violations of the rules regarding keeping and transfer of animals in appropriate facilities, unnecessary harsh chaining, lack of provision of medical care to sick or suffering animals, and failure to isolate animals suspected of contracting contagious diseases are punishable by six months imprisonment.  Noncompliance with accreditation, training or supervision requirements are punishable by fines.[55]

D.  Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Law, 5754-1994

Unauthorized experimentation on animals is punishable by one year imprisonment and for an additional fine for every day in which the offense continues to be perpetrated after notification of the verdict.[56]

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Ruth Levush
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
June 2013

 

[1] Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mar. 3, 1973, 27 U.S.T. 1087, T.I.A.S. 8249, 993 U.N.T.S. 243, http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/text.php, as amended, June 1, 1979, T.I.A.S. 11079, and Apr. 30, 1983, http://www.cites. org/eng/disc/gaborone.php (Gaborone Amendment).

[2] Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955, Sefer HaHukim [S.H.] [Book of Laws, Official Gazette] No. 170, p. 10.

[3] Id. § 1.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. § 3.

[6] Id. § 16(5).

[7] Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) (Possession not for Agricultural Purposes) Regulations, 5769-2009, § 9, Kovetz Hatakanot [K.T.] [Subsidiary Legislation] 5769 p. 1260 (2009).

[8] Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) Law, 5744-1994, S.H. 5744 No. 1447 p. 56, as amended.

[9] Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) (Possession not for Agricultural Purposes) Regulations, 5769-2009, K.T. 5769 p. 1260 (2009).

[10] Id. § 10(1) (translated by author, R.L.).

[11] Id. § 10(3).

[12] Id. § 10(2).

[13] Id. § 11(a).

[14] Id. § 11(b).

[15] Id. § 11(d).

[16] Id. § 11(e).

[17] Id. § 11(f).

[18] Id. § 11(g).

[19] Id. § 12(1).

[20] Id. § 12(3).

[21] Id. § 12(4).

[22] Id. § 13.

[23] Id. § 4.

[24] Id. § 3A(1).

[25] Id. § 3A(2).

[26] Id. § 3A(3).

[27] Id. § 3A(10).

[28] Id. § 3A(14).

[29] Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955, S.H. No. 170, p. 10.

[30] Protection of Wild Animals Regulations, 5736-1976, § 12B, K.T. 5736 No. 3586, p. 2631.

[31] Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955, §§ 810, S.H. No. 170, p. 10.

[32] Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955, S.H. No. 170, p. 10.

[33] Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Law, 5754-1994, S.H. 5744 No. 1479, p. 298.

[34] Id. § 2.

[35] Id. § 8.

[36] Id. § 9.

[37] Id. § 10.

[38] Id. § 13.

[39] The Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Rules, 5761-2001, K.T. 5761 No. 6101, p. 752, as amended.

[40] National Research Council, Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, (8th ed. 2011), available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/olaw/Guide-for-the-Care-and-Use-of-Laboratory-Animals.pdf.

[41] The Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Rules, 5761-2001, § 5, K.T. 5761 No. 6101, p. 752 (translated by author, R.L.).

[42] Id. § 6.

[43] Id. §§ 9–10.

[44] Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Law, 5754-1994, § 5, S.H. 5744 No. 1479, p. 298.

[45] Id. § 15.

[46] Id. § 18.

[47] Id. § 19.

[48] Id. § 20.

[49] Id. § 21.

[50] Protection of Wild Animals Law, 5715-1955, § 14(a), S.H. No. 170, p. 10.

[51] Id. § 14(b).

[52] Id. § 14(c).

[53] Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) Law, 5744-1994, § 17(a), S.H. 5744 No. 1447, p. 56, as amended.

[54] Id. § 17(b).

[55] Humane Treatment of Animals (Protection of Animals) (Possession Not for Agricultural Purposes) Regulations, 5769-2009, § 39, K.T. 5769 p. 1260 (2009).

[56] Humane Treatment of Animals (Experiments on Animals) Law, 5754-1994, § 23, S.H. 5744 No. 1479, p. 298.

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Last Updated: 02/28/2014