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Israel usher in BSL

THE ISRAELI Government has enacted Breed Specific Legislation following the death of a four year-old child attacked by an American Stafford last month. The Knesset approved preliminary proposals in a vote last Monday to effectively outlaw Amstaffs, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. According to the Bills, such dogs will only be permitted under severe veterinary supervision and specific conditions. Violators will be subject to a maximum three year prison term.

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz announced that he would issue regulations that will stiffen conditions for keeping dangerous dogs as house pets, including registering them with authorities. However, MPs want to eliminate dangerous dogs from the country entirely.
Legislation that would gradually outlaw dangerous dogs is to be pushed quickly through the Knesset. The Knesset House Committee decided on Tuesday to waive the 45-day waiting period for a bill drafted by Likud MP Gideon Sa'ar that would ban three types of dogs: the Pit Bull, Rottweiler, and Amstaff (American Staffordshire Terrier).

Sa'ar intends to raise the bill for a preliminary reading on Wednesday.

Sa'ar submitted a bill following the killing of four-year old Avivit Ganon by ‘Trip’, an Amstaff dog that belonged to her family. "In the same way you can't go for a walk with a tiger or raise an alligator in your house, a normal society should not allow dangerous dogs to be kept as pets that terrorise neighbourhoods and apartment buildings," Sa'ar said.

MP Inbal Gavrieli (Likud), who voted against the proposal by Sa’ar, defended dangerous dogs. "It is all a matter of upbringing," said Gavrieli, who noted that she has lived with three different Rottweilers. Likud MK Omri Sharon also voted against Sa'ar's initiative.

According to Katz's regulations, dangerous dogs will have to be castrated and must be muzzled while in public. In the interim period, the owners of those dogs would be required to register them with the city veterinarian and determine the conditions for continuing to house them, including sterilisation.

A law was approved in 2002 that was aimed at cracking down on dangerous dogs, but the government never published the regulations to implement the measure.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) has also submitted a bill that would override the 2002 law and put a ban on housing all dangerous dogs, including those from any breed that have at least one incident of biting that caused injury. Under the bill, the government would have to determine the list of dangerous dogs within 30 days, and all owners would have to turn them over to authorities, including to the security forces. The punishment for holding the dogs against the law would be one-year imprisonment.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) complained Tuesday that he had asked Katz in a parliamentary query a month ago why the regulations had not been published to implement the Dog Supervision Law.

Katz responded to Eldad on Tuesday that the law had not been implemented because of the "need of the relevant authorities to prepare the supervisory mechanism required by law."

The Knesset Economics Committee must approve Katz’s regulations before they go forward for a final vote in the Knesset.

Needless to say the Government’s proposals have led to a wave of protest from anti-BSL campaigners around the world, who have already submitted hundreds of e-mails to the Prime Minister calling for sensible legislation to ‘punish the deed, not the breed’.

The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, added his voice to the Government’s draconian stance and issued a decree forbidding the raising of a dog that poses an unreasonable risk at home.

During a lesson in a Tel Aviv synagogue last Saturday, the Rabbi explained that he is basing his decision on sources from the Talmud, Maimonides and Shulchan Aruch (standard code of Jewish law), that forbid the raising of a ‘bad dog’.

Metzger stressed that the decree does not completely forbid raising dogs and added that dog owners are obligated to provide food for their pets and that in this matter dogs should be fed even before their owner.

In addition, Metzger called on the Knesset to pass legislation that forbids raising dangerous dogs in private households.

The tide of calls for BSL in Israel followed a sadly all-too familiar pattern; The tragic death of a child following a dog attack, followed by high profile media reporting of far more minor dog attacks on other children, which normally would only warrant a few lines in a local newspaper.

Just two days after Avivit Ganon was attacked and killed by her family's pet American Staffordshire Terrier, a nine year-old boy was attacked by an Amstaff on the loose in Tiberias. The boy was ‘slightly injured’ and was treated in hospital and later released. The boy, a recent immigrant living in an absorption centre, went down to play in the street when suddenly a stray dog attacked him and bit him on the leg.

After the boy was transferred to the hospital for treatment, police and the city veterinarian, Dr. Amnon Or, arrived. The police captured the one and a half year-old bitch and sent her to the city pound. The dog had a collar and appeared to be used to being around people. The owners and their whereabouts are, however, unknown. The dog will remain impounded for 10 days to test it for rabies. After that city officials will decide what to do with the dog.

The Gannon family’s dog Trip was destroyed early last week, the order being carried out just minutes after the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court approved the request made by the Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Services. The office immediately carried out the action despite being aware that the animal rights association Let Animals Live intended to appeal the decision.

Indeed, shortly after the verdict, Magistrate Court judge Tamir Michael issued an injunction to delay the action, but it was too late: the dog had already been put down.

The original verdict came after the dog's owners consented to the request as required by law. "Mr. Ganon made it unequivocally clear to the court that he wants the dog exterminated, and even said he wanted to kill the dog immediately after the incident and was ready to do so even now," the judge said.

The judge also accepted the opinion of Dr. Moshe Haimovitz, acting director of the Veterinary Services, that Trip was a ‘rogue’ dog whose behaviour cannot be predicted, and therefore, should be put down. He rejected the claim of Let Animals Live that killing the dog would be like "harming the gun and not the person who used it."

"The dog is equivalent to both the weapon and the user, since it decides when to `pull the trigger' with no prior notice," the judge wrote in his verdict.

Tel Aviv Municipality officials were shocked by the speed at which the decision was carried out. Apparently, the Agriculture Ministry's veterinarian had waited at the city pound in which Trip was being held starting early in the morning so he could inject the dog with poison as soon as the judge issued his verdict.

"It's a snatch, its thuggery for all intents and purposes, showing the disgraceful way in which the veterinarian services are conducted," said Let Animals Live spokeswoman Etti Altman.