Animal welfare law to take effect in Spain from Friday

by Lorraine Williamson
animal welfare law

MALAGA – From tomorrow, Friday 29 September, the law protecting the rights and welfare of animals comes into force in Spain. What is still allowed, what is no longer allowed and which parts will be postponed? 

Exhibiting animals in shop windows, buying animals in physical shops or over the internet, circuses with animals, and dog fighting will be banned in Spain from tomorrow. The same applies to having an animal put to sleep unless it is done out of extreme necessity and under veterinary supervision. 

However, the obligation for pet owners to take a course, compulsory liability insurance or identification with microchip is postponed. 

Working animals are exceptions 

Exceptions also apply to a number of ‘working animals’. These include police dogs and hunting dogs, falcons and cetaceans living in zoos and dolphinariums. The legion goat is a notable exception. It is allowed to parade as usual on the bank holidays on 12 October. The mule and ox in the live nativity scenes are also allowed to stay. As working animals, they fall outside the norm.  

However, that changes if, when the animals are no longer productive, their owners decide to enter them in the animal register as pets. This register is provided for in the new law, registration will be compulsory. 

The scheme for dangerous dogs will not change with the new animal welfare law. The proposal was to stop classifying on the basis of breeds with potential danger and instead assess them on the basis of each dog’s character.  

Obligations and prohibitions 

Veterinary assistance will become mandatory to ensure animal welfare and disease prevention and control through hygiene and vaccination. There will also be a new system of animal and breeder registers. 

All vertebrate animals must live in ‘dignified’ conditions that guarantee their welfare, rights and healthy development. Animals living in cages, aquariums or terrariums must be given adequate space. However, the law states that conditions for each species will be determined by regulation.  

No methods that cause suffering, anxiety or fear may be used in raising the animal. Leaving them in closed vehicles, exposing them to heat or other life-threatening conditions is prohibited. Every animal must undergo a periodic veterinary examination. This must be recorded.  

If an animal is stolen or lost, the authorities must be notified within 48 hours. No animal may be left unattended for a more than three days. For dogs, this is a maximum of 24 hours. 

The new regulation makes owners responsible for any damage, injury or nuisance they cause to people, other animals or things, the public space or the natural environment, and establishes a penalty system.  

From Friday, any form of neglect and mistreatment, aggression or negligence that causes suffering, physical or psychological damage or death to animals will be prohibited. This would include, for example, letting animals run loose, especially in national parks, grazing areas or other protected natural areas. There, animals can cause a lot of damage.  

No animals in shows – bullfighting is allowed in the animal welfare law

It is also forbidden to use animals in public shows, artistic, tourist or advertising activities that cause them distress, pain or suffering. However, bullfighting shows are excluded. Mechanical rides or fairground carousels and the use of wild animals in circuses are banned “in any case”. Animals may also not be used as lures, rewards, prizes, lotteries or advertisements. 

Dog fighting or training or inciting dogs to attack other animals or humans is prohibited. So is animal sacrifice, except under justified euthanasia by a veterinarian.  

Nor may any form of mutilation or permanent modification of the body be carried out.  

Nor may vertebrate animals be tethered or allowed to roam unsupervised.  Dogs and cats must not be kept with regularity on terraces, balconies, roofs, storage rooms, basements, courtyards or in vehicles. Animals must also not be tied to moving motor vehicles. 

Animals must not be fed intestines, carcasses and other waste from animals that have not passed health checks.  

Genetic selection leading to serious changes in animal health will also be banned. As will commercial breeding of any species by breeders who are not registered. Dogs, cats and ferrets may not be sold in shops in shop windows. Furthermore, it is forbidden to sell any animal species over the internet.  

Free access to public spaces and institutions 

Once the regulation comes into force, pet animals can enter transport, establishments and public spaces, public and private establishments, hotel accommodations, restaurants and bars. The same applies to access to public buildings and premises, care centres and shelters. 

New activities and bodies 

There will be a list of wild animal species that can be kept as pets and a State Council for Animal Protection.

There will be statistics on animal protection and a national animal protection plan. This will include measures to eliminate animal cruelty and reduce animal abandonment.  

Also obligation for municipalities 

Municipalities are obliged to shelter stray and abandoned animals for 24 hours. They must house the animals in an animal protection centre, either their own or through agreements with private agencies. Public animal protection centres must sterilise dogs, cats and ferrets arriving at their premises.

Also read: No mandatory insurance or courses for dog owners in Spain yet 

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