Emaciated and ill horses and donkeys pulling overloaded carts down city streets are a common sight in Israel, but that is about to change. The government is set to ban “any vehicle drawn by an animal from urban roads,” effective within six months. The ban still needs a signature by a parliamentary committee, but Nina Natelson of CHAI – Concern for Helping Animals in Israel calls that “a formality.” The ban will be the first of its kind in the world.
Cart horses and donkeys in Israel “haul heavy carts filled with furniture, rocks from construction sites, watermelons and other produce for the market.” Horses and donkeys are so cheap — a donkey can be had for $5 — that it isn’t economical for carters to feed or shelter them adequately, much less pay for veterinary care. Instead they abandon them at the end of the summer. The animals often collapse in the street, alone, with infected lesions on their faces from too-small harnesses and ribs clearly visible under their skin.
One rescued horse, Shabbat (so named because he was rescued on the Sabbath, the first day of his new life), was 250 pounds underweight. His knees were gouged and blood ran down his legs because the heavy load combined with his starvation made him fall often. Nails were driven into the soft part of his feet to attach pieces of wood so he wouldn’t slip. When a vet removed the wood, he found that Shabbat’s feet were a bloody pulp.
CHAI was a primary mover behind this reform. The organization lobbied officials, exposed abuse and neglect, sponsored a rally featuring popular entertainers and enlisted the public to help report and document abuse.
The next hurdle will be enforcing the ban on animals pulling vehicles. CHAI has plans in place, which include distributing letters to Israel’s mayors and local police chiefs about “the new law and their responsibilities to enforce it,” Natelson says. The group will continue calling on Israelis to photograph cart horses with their phones and send the pictures to CHAI, which will report violations to the authorities. CHAI is also planning on an educational initiative for children.
The donkey above was forced to haul scrap metal. See the following pages for more pictures of Israel’s cart horses and donkeys.
All photos courtesy of CHAI
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