Animal welfare law in Spain narrowly survives fierce debate in Senate

by Lorraine Williamson
animal welfare law

A single but decisive vote saved the Spanish party Podemos from another setback in the Spanish Senate in the week of 8 March for one of its flagship bills: la Ley de Bienestar Animal, the animal welfare law.

The new law comes from Podemos, coalition partner in the Spanish government. This populist left-wing party has animal welfare high on its agenda.  

By a narrow margin, the government avoided the rejection of the animal welfare law in the Senate – formally known as a veto. An absolute majority (133 votes) was needed for success, the veto received 132 votes, and three Senate members abstained. Another veto, in this case from the PP, also yielded 132 votes in favour, against 131 votes and two abstentions. The bill will be passed in Congress in the coming weeks after the inclusion of several amendments. 

This means that the animal welfare bill will be passed in Congress in the coming weeks after inclusion of several amendments. Rejection of the law would be a huge political blow to the government, but especially Podemos. This party suffered a defeat against the PSOE less than 24 hours earlier when dealing with the reform of the ‘only yes is yes’ law.  


The bill to amend the penal code, debated at the same time as the law, to tighten penalties for assault was also passed. This too required an absolute majority. PSOE and Bildu voted in favour, the PP, VOX, ERC, PNV, Bildu, PAR, PRC, UPN, Junts per Cat, Ciudadanos voted against and two former senators abstained.  

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Criticism of the law from various quarters 

‘The original proposal has been watered down by the government, gradually leaving several groups of animals unprotected,’ said Pablo Gómez Perpinyá, a senator from Más Madrid, who criticised the central government. Senator Pedro Rollán was also critical of the law, saying that ‘all specialists’ agree that it is a law ‘that does not benefit animals’, ‘promotes professional interference’ and ‘infringes on powers’.  

The law has also been criticised for imposing prison sentences when someone kills a vertebrate animal. And because hunting dogs are not protected. 

The bill passed maintains the controversial PSOE amendment, supported by the PP and Vox, which excludes animals from hunting activities from this regulation. This seemed a crucial issue, due to Unidas Podemos’ initial refusal to support a law that would specifically lack protection for hunting dogs. In the end, the minority partner did support the law in Congress and so it reached the Senate 

End to cruel practices 

Spanish Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra defended the law but also acknowledged the difficulties her party had encountered in the negotiations. In her speech, she stressed that this law will end cruel practices with animals and curb mistreatment. ‘It is essential legislation’ she said. With this law, Belarra stressed, her department’s goal is that future generations ‘grow up in a country where they understand that having a cat is a lifelong responsibility and not an object’ to fall in love with. 

Also read: Hunting and working dogs are excluded from Animal Protection Act in Spain

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