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The most controversial elements of the new Animal Protection Law

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The Spanish Government recently approved the draft Law on the Protection, Rights and Welfare of Animals, which aims to “put an end to animal abuse, abandonment and sacrifice”. The Minister of Social Rights and leader of Podemos, Ione Belarra, is its main promoter. The text is ready for parliamentary processing.

This new regulation contains some points that have generated controversy, such as ALL dog owners having to “pass a training course” that facilitates “responsible ownership of the animal”, as well as taking out civil liability insurance for every dog, not just those classed as dangerous. The dangerous dog specifics have changed so that it is no longer the case that certain breeds are automatically classified, but rather individual dogs through examination.

The new law prohibits circuses with wild animals, the sale of dogs, cats and ferrets in stores and aims to “reconvert” zoos and dolphinariums into ” recovery centres for native species”.

The law also prohibits pets from getting pregnant. Cats will have to be sterilised before they are six months old, and dogs will not be allowed to get pregnant, although they are only expressly mentioned in the forced sterilisation part when dogs of different sexes live together, in which case sterilisation is mandatory. In fact, any form of breeding can only be carried out by registered and professional breeders.

Penalties and sanctions

This regulation toughens the penalties for mistreatment through a reform of the Penal Code. Fines of up to 600,000 euro are established for very serious infractions, it also contemplates additional measures for non-compliance that can reach the confiscation of the animal and its delivery to a protection entity. In the event that an animal dies due to mistreatment, the penalty could reach 24 months in prison, which could rise to 36 months in the event that more than one aggravating circumstance occurs.

All vertebrate animals were included in this measure. It is added that animals will become “sentient beings” in Spanish law, and it will be considered that “animals are living beings endowed with sensitivity.”

The owner of an animal will have to assume the possible damages that it could cause to other individuals, animals or things, to the roads or public spaces and to the natural environment. In the sanctions section, three different types are distinguished: minor, serious and very serious. In the case of minor infractions, the fines will range between 600 and 30,000 euro; in serious cases, between 30,001 and 100,000 euro, and in very serious cases, between 100,001 and 600,000 euro. In addition, the possibility of disqualifying the owner from keeping animals ” for a maximum period of five years for serious offenses and five to 10 years for very serious offenses ” is provided as ancillary sanctions.

Forbidden to sacrifice

This preliminary draft of the Law on the Protection, Rights and Welfare of animals prohibits the slaughter of companion animals, except for “sanitary or euthanasia reasons”. It is also prohibited to use them as advertising claim if there is no prior authorisation. In addition, integration into exhibitions of nativity scenes, parades or processions where the animal is immobilised is prohibited.

The new regulations also seek to end the abandonment of the animal. Every year more than 300,000 animals are abandoned throughout Spain, an average of 800 a day, according to official data. That is the reason why pet pregnancy will be outlawed.

Sale prohibited

With the approval of this new law, the sale of dogs, cats and ferrets in pet stores, as well as their display and exposure to the public for commercial purposes, excluding fish, would be prohibited.

The new regulations contemplate the prohibition of circuses with wild animals and the use of animals in activities and shows in which they may suffer harm or death, such as cockfights or pigeon shooting.

Animals from bullfighting shows, production animals, animals for experimentation and research, including teaching, are excluded from this legal reform. However, hunting dogs are included, and they should be registered in the new Register of Companion Animals and be linked to the hunting licence of their owner. The regulations also provide for the sterilisation of these if they are kept outside homes or may have uncontrolled contact with others, among other measures, or if dogs of different sexes live together in the same space.


The maximum time that any pet can be left unattended is set at three days. In the case of dogs, this period may not exceed 24 hours in a row. The rule regulates the access of animals to public and private transport to those pets that “do not constitute a risk to people” and indicates that taxi and VTC drivers who accept them in their vehicles have “the right to receive a supplement» previously established by the competent authority.

In addition, it is regulated that public and private establishments “such as hotel accommodation, beaches, restaurants or bars” that do not allow the entry and stay of animals must show it by means of an indicator “visible from the outside”.

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