The Animal Protection Law in Spain – Man’s best friend, along with all other animals, will finally be recognized as sentient beings and family members who are protected by the law starting tomorrow, February 18.
Around 49.3% of the total number of households in Spain have a pet. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged more Spanish citizens and residents to adopt pets. The travel and other restrictions implemented by the government to curb the transmission of the coronavirus meant that more citizens had to stay at home. They couldn’t go out to do their usual activities or spend time with people outside their households. The sudden changes also brought much stress to everyone around the world.
Having a pet now seems more appropriate for many because of the time they have at home, which meant that they could attend to their pets. They can also enjoy the relief from stress that pets bring. At the same time, walking dogs outside was permitted even during the strictest of lockdowns in the country. Because of this, citizens could get out of their homes for a bit if they had a pet.
The Situation of Animal Abandonment in Spain
However, not everyone was able to sustain taking care of their pets. Many animals were eventually brought to animal adoption centers or left to fend for themselves on the streets. In 2020, there were 258,300 reported cases of animal abandonment in the country. The most common reasons for doing so include lack of finances, unwanted litters, and behavioral problems with the pets.
Lola Bernardo, the founder of Abrazo Animal in Madrid, said that “We’ve received many animals which we are calling the Covid generation, as it started with a boom in animals that were arriving at an age that meant they were adopted as puppies or in infancy at the start of the pandemic.”
The issue of pet abandonment has been a recurring one for years. It is estimated that “three animals are abandoned every five minutes in Spain.” Many of the pets are purchased as Christmas presents, but buyers frequently overlook the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner. Once the enthusiasm for having a new pet wears out and the effort to care for them comes in, pets are abandoned.
Apart from this, the use of live animals in certain activities, such as circuses, parades, and cockfights, are still legally allowed to be conducted in certain parts of Spain. Cockfighting, which is hinged on 500 years of culture, can still be done in the Canary Islands and Andalusia, the only two regions in the country permitted to do so.
The Ministry of Social Rights said that the Animal Protection Law in Spain is a step forward in strictly regulating “hundreds of cases a year of interventions in breeding centers where bitches [are kept] without rest until they die of exhaustion.” However, the law excludes any regulations on hunting.
Ultimately, the Animal Protection Law in Spain aims to protect animals from maltreatment, abandonment, and unreasonable euthanasia, among other things. Pet owners should have the responsibility to care for their pets just as they would for human beings.
With this step, Spain joins other countries that have implemented similar laws to protect animals, such as Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Catalonia, Belgium, France, Portugal, Canada, and New Zealand.
The Animal Protection Law in Spain has Been in the Works for Months
The implementation of the Animal Protection Law in Spain has already been delayed. Details of the law were fleshed out in October 2021. Then, a draft was planned to be presented on November 30 of last year by the Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda.
A major feat came on January 5 of this year. Animals were considered sentient beings as an amendment to the Civil Code, the Mortgage Act, and the Civil Procedure Act. Many have been waiting for the full approval of the law by the Spanish Cabinet and enforcement since then.
Many roadblocks along the way have pushed back the date of its implementation. Some speculated that the government intended to delay the enforcement of the Animal Protection Law in Spain. They thought that officials were afraid of the negative reaction of those who opposed the law.
One of the groups that has very much opposed the Animal Protection Law in Spain is the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation. They claim that this law gives more importance to animals than to human beings. Because of this, it oversteps on human rights.
Manuel Gallardo, the president of the aforementioned federation, also said that the Animal Protection Law in Spain does not provide the protection that it claims to give to animals. Within the boundaries of the law, neutering of male animals and spaying of female animals are allowed. This, he said, can be considered abusive behavior towards animals.
However, some believe that hunters will not be affected by the Animal Protection Law in Spain. It only regulates animal abuse, but not the activity of hunting. As such, there is no need to oppose the law because it will not have any repercussions on them.
The Ministry of Agriculture shares the same sentiment. They do not want hunting dogs and family pets to be under the same laws because these two groups of dogs are different. But, activists for animal rights believe otherwise. They want all dogs to be treated equally and, as such, be provided with the same protection.
The recently passed legislation does not tackle hunting, making it favorable for the relevant institutions who were concerned about the conduct of their activities.
What are the Rules Under the Animal Protection Law in Spain?
Animals are now not merely things legally. Rather, they are sentient beings and family members who should be treated accordingly. Because of this, owners of the animals need to provide sufficient and appropriate care that is in line with the specific needs of the species.
Pet owners will be subject to various rules under the Animal Protection Law in Spain.
General Treatment of Pets
Individuals in Spain are not legally allowed to do the following:
- Mistreat or physically abuse animals
- Being negligent in the treatment of animals or doing anything that can cause suffering, physical damage, psychological damage, or death
- Abandoning pets in any space, regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors
- Training animals to become aggressive to participate in competitions or for other purposes
- Donating or adopting animals that do not have identification details
- Using spiked collars or leashes that prevent animals from breathing properly
- Using harmful electric devices on animals
- Using any object with the intention of limiting the animal’s mobility, unless recommended by a veterinarian
- Tying animals to vehicles that are in motion
- Using balconies, terraces, attics, storage rooms, basements, and vehicles as permanent shelters for pets
- Leaving animals on their own and without a caretaker for more than 3 straight days. This excludes dogs, who cannot be left on their own for more than 24 hours
There are also limitations on the number of pets an individual can own. Private pet owners can only have up to five animals per individual. A special permit will be required should they want to have more pets.
The following are also prohibited:
- Unauthorized breeding of pets
- Selling animals done by breeders without a license to do so or by ordinary citizens who own a pet
- Selling or displaying animals in physical shops in order to gain profit, obtaining animals should only be done directly with a licensed breeder or from an animal shelter
- Using animals for advertisements of products and services, without obtaining permission from relevant authorities
- Using animals as rewards or prizes in raffles or in the conduct of sales
Pet owners cannot subject their pets to unnecessary surgical procedures, which are just done with the intent of changing the appearance of animals. These include docking of tails, cropping of ears, devocalisation, declawing, and defanging. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a veterinarian finds reason for the promotion of the pet’s well-being, these procedures may be performed.
Conducting mercy killing on animals without proper judgment by a veterinarian or done for other reasons apart from to avoid the suffering of animals is not allowed. Owners will also be prohibited from euthanizing their pets solely due to aggressive or other unfavorable behavior displayed by the animals.