Israel Steps in to Save Hungry, Abused Cart Horses & Donkeys

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.

Joey had an untreated fungal infection on his face.

Starved cart horse.

Another hungry working horse.

Horses and donkeys are forced to pull carts in very urban areas in Israel, amidst the din from crowds and motorized vehicles.

Underfed animals hauling broken-down carts full of junk are a common sight in Israeli cities, so common that the anachronism doesn’t always register — though the misery of the animals always does.

These two horses are locked in a tiny yard and surrounded by hazardous, rusty garbage. Some of the animals live in tiny, dark stalls, while others are tied up on short ropes with no shade from the Mediterranean sun.

Just rescued and eating well for the first time, Tikvah’s (Hope) ankles are swollen from hobbling — his owner would tie them together to keep him from escaping.

Now healthy and filled out, Tikvah has permanently misshapen ankles from being hobbled. During his rehabilitation he turned from brown to black.

Photo by Alex Roskowsky for NRG, July 1, 2007, from CHAI

A starving horse abandoned in the street in Haifa, Israel.

One cart horse, Joey, was so starved that he ate plastic, rope and netting, which blocked his intestines and made it impossible for him to eat anything.

After his rescue and rehabilitation Joey, the brown horse in the video, was led into a field of grass for the first time. He “lowered his head to smell this strange new stuff and his eyes lit up. He nibbled on a few blades, then burst into a leap of joy, bucking several times before settling down to eat.” In this video he plays with a new friend.

Visit CHAI’s website if you would like to donate or get involved with their work.


Related Stories:

Are New York City Horse Carriages Taking YOU for a Ride?

Egypt’s Horses are Starving to Death

Israel Bans Animal-Tested Cosmetics. Why Can’t We Do the Same?


All photos courtesy of CHAI

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Past Member 8 months ago


Rosa Arsiaga
Rosa Arsiaga1 years ago

Thank you for doing this on their behalf. We need more people like you in this world. :)

Patricia Guilhem
Patricia Guilhem2 years ago

Je suis choquée par ce que j' ai lu et les photos que j' ai vu. Il était tant d' aider ces pauvres chevaux et ânes, J' espère que cela ne va pas recommencer. Que les gens, qui ont fait tant de mal, aillent prier pour se faire pardonner cette atrocité. Seul Dieu est capable de pardonner ( dit on) moi je ne pourrais pas, la misère n' excuse pas tout. Désolée.

Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy2 years ago

Is it just enough to ban them from roads? Will they still carry heavy loads in fields, lanes etc.,What happens if they are no longer useful ...what about their welfare... I do hope it works out for the animals

Virginia G.
Virginia G.2 years ago

Israel you are A DISGUSTING country. Bunch of frigging savages. I cannot believe how you have allowed this for so long! Not only are you huge experimenters on animals but you are also so slow to recognize or care about the hell these magnificent horses and donkeys are suffering!
Karma to you folk!!!!!

Jennifer Kopp
Jennifer Kopp2 years ago

Thank you CHAI! This is so depressing what they do to the horses and donkeys. Tikvah turning from brown to black is very interesting, was he so lacking in nutrition that it just made his fur really dull? So glad for all the cart animals who were rescued and can live the rest of their lives as comfortably as possible.

.2 years ago

about time they did something about this(as they should about many other things)thank you for sharing

alex l.
alex l.2 years ago

while the piece of garbage "owner" has not one thing on their back, while whipping the animal.
they are disgusting abusers, who see nothing wrong with destroying the life of another, so long as that tormented creature gets their work done for them.
lazy and with out excuse.
if any one of them carried even a quarter of their own weight on their back while the animal pulled the rest, there might be some forgiveness, but they don't. not one ounce do they lift, while literally beating the animal to death.

as to the law - too little too late.

Aud Nordby
Aud nordby2 years ago


Lori Ann Hone
Lori Hone2 years ago

So very sad, so very cruel.