Bullfights not included in Spain’s new Animal Welfare Act

by Deborah Cater
Animal Welfare Act

MADRID – The new Animal Welfare Act the Spanish government is preparing does not cover bullfights. This would only delay the passing of a good law for 35 million other animals, the makers say.

The law is expected to come into effect on January 1, 2023. This law prohibits, among other things, the breeding of animals by individuals and the sale of animals in shops. During a meeting in parliament with more than 50 animal protection groups, Minister Torres outlined the general lines of the animal welfare act.

Zero offering and zero abandonment

One of the aims of the law is “zero offering” and “zero abandonment”. No more animals should be unnecessarily killed or abandoned. Six state registries will be established for this purpose: companion animals, zoological centres, breeders, people who are not allowed to keep animals, animal behaviour professionals and animal protection agencies.

The first registry aims for greater control of pets. It will be coordinated between the 17 Autonomous Communities and based on their information about both the origin of the animals and their health data.

The registry of zoos and other zoological entities not only allows full registration, but also prevents “illegal breeders” from posting advertisements on Internet platforms. This last point is further reinforced by the new register of breeders.

No more than five animals per household

Individuals are not allowed to have more than five animals in their home. If they want more, they have to register as ‘zoological nuclei’. If a person already has five or more pets after the law has been passed, this will not make them illegal, but they may not take more.

The law also provides for a national register of people who are no longer allowed to keep or work with companion animals. Although this registry will not be public due to data protection law, these people cannot register animals in the system.

Torres also stressed people working with animals will be regulated and entered in a register. They must have the appropriate training for this. The purpose of registering animal protection authorities is to increase their “professionalisation”.

Animal farms

With this system comes better regulation of animal breeding. “Breeding is only allowed for registered professionals” and the number of litters will be limited depending on the need for zoological centres and establishments; all “subject to vet control”. In this sense, breeding is prohibited, for example, if there is more than 25% blood relationship in the animals or if there are genetic diseases.

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Zoos

In the same way, animal sacrifice will be regulated. Putting animals to sleep will only be allowed “on the basis of exceptions related to euthanasia situations”. There will be “no possibility that because a centre is full or because an animal is behaving in a specific way, anyone can proceed to the route of sacrifice,” Torres said.

Ban on selling animals in shops

With a ban on the sale of animals in shops, lawmakers want to avoid “compulsive buying”. Likewise, the breeding of non-native species, including for zoos, is prohibited. They will also “no longer be able to buy animals, especially large mammals and cetaceans”.

The goal is the “change of these institutions” into centres of “reintroduction of native species”. As an example, Torres put forward Madrid Zoo which, thanks to captive breeding, has helped to repopulate the Iberian otter in the country.

With regard to non-native animals, the regulation also regulates a “positive list of pet animals”, which determines which animals may be bought and sold outside the country. That list is based on three points: they must not pose a problem to health, to public safety (no poisonous animals) and to the environment (no invasive species).

Animals in shows, processions and pilgrimages

With regard to animals in shows, much is already regulated by regional laws and regulations. Torres points out the new law “strictly” regulates pilgrimages, parades, processions and other cultural acts in which animals participate. In this regard, the government worked with veterinary colleges to determine the limitations on which an animal can or cannot participate, e.g. temperature or age.

Bullfighting

For “practical reasons”, what is not included in the new animal welfare act, is bullfighting. That would only cause unnecessary delays. Torres realises this can lead to criticism. However, he says it is now especially important and “necessary to draft law protecting more than 35 million animals”.

Hunting dogs

Hunting dogs are treated in the text like any other dog. So, anyone who has five or more must register as a zoological nucleus. If someone wants to breed hunting dogs, they must have adequate facilities and permits, among other aspects. This will be controlled by various police forces and agencies that, based on the registers implemented by this law and the identification systems already in place, will be able to check whether vaccinations and other matters are all in order.

Cat colonies and furry animals

The law also addresses issues such as the regulation of cat colonies, the ban on the breeding of animals used for fur; the regulation of animal sanctuaries; the ban on pigeon shooting and cockfighting; the general sterilisation of pets and the participation of animals in the media.

Effective before 2023

The bill may come before the Council of Ministers in November. Then to the government and parliament. The aim is for the law to enter into force before January 1, 2023.

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