Spain presents the draft of the new animal welfare law. Can this bill really happen?

It was about time that Spain dared to review the law that contemplates and regulates animals. Accordingly, the Ministry of Social Affairs presented a draft of such a law, subject to modifications, that is progressive and, in my opinion, very encouraging.

Yeray Lopez
Yeray Lopez

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Something seems to be happening in my homeland that has my hopes up. A draft for a new animal welfare law was presented, and it looks good. Let's see if it actually happens and how far its final form will be from this promising draft. This new law, which will be operating from January 2023, will primarily affect "animals that live in the human environment, especially those of companionship, domestic, domesticated or wild animals in captivity."

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Many people have asked me what I think about the new draft for the future animal welfare law in Spain, and I gladly welcome it as something good and more progressive than what I have seen for years in my home country. Here I will talk about what I perceive as good and what I believe is missing in the text. But let's not forget that this is not the final form of the law, just a draft exposed to all the might of lobbyists and, of course, ourselves. So, yes, this law called the "bill of protection and rights of the animals" is the "public consultation phase," meaning groups can bring in suggestions. See the draft here.

Some of the big wins

No more unjustified Euthanasias
  • The "bill of protection and rights of the animals" will do something that I consider common sense, which I already discussed at European Parliament when we talked about what the galgos endure. This new bill will end disparities between the 17 autonomous bodies concerning pets and animals collected in shelters. The euthanasia of animals can only occur if it is justified to avoid animal suffering (in cases of an incurable disease, for example) and always with veterinary control. But, unfortunately, the law leaves out of protection farming animals and those used in bullfighting. The animals used for experimentation are only included very limitedly in the new bill. Thus, the requirement to "educate and treat the animal with non-aggressive or violent methods that can harm, abuse it, or cause it states of anxiety or fear," among others, will not apply.

I will repeat what I believe is a great victory, which might show the authorities how much abandonment there is in Spain, and hopefully force them to bring other measures related to education and accountability. Euthanasia will be prohibited in animal protection centers, public shelters, veterinary clinics, and zoos for economic reasons, lack of space, or the fact that the rescued animal has been in the center for more than a certain amount of time.

Some of its key aspects

  • Shops will only be allowed to sell fish, and no animal will be shown in public for commercial use.
  • With this bill, no dog can be home alone for more than 24h. For example, in the case of other animals, like cats, they could not be left without supervision for three consecutive days. And never, in any case, can an animal be left on terraces, sidewalks, or vehicles.
  • The loss of a mascot will have to be communicated in less than 48 hours so that it is not considered abandoned, which can be fined up to 100,000 euros.
  • On the other hand, animals disappear from attractions and spectacles that cause "anguish, pain or anxiety," and wild fauna are never used in circuses.
  • Creation of a register of people that have been condemned to never own animals again. Such a registry already exists in various countries for those convicted of domestic violence. See a previous post about the relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence.
  • People who make animals fight or train them to fight will be fined up to 600.000 euros. Undoubtedly, cruel practices, like "Tiro al Pichón" where a dove is cannoned up in the air to be shot at, will also be forbidden.
  • Anyone wanting to have a dog will need to go to a course to learn what it means to be a dog owner. The content of these classes is not determined yet, but I think it is a great initiative that will prevent a lot of abandonments.
  • The feline colonies will be protected. This is far from what we have now, where people who actually feed stray cats can be fined.
  • Bring your mascot to places. You will be able to enter public transport with your pet, as well as public and private establishments like hotels, beaches, restaurants, and bars unless clearly shown outside the establishment.

Points of friction

One of the most essential aspects of this new bill is the definition of a companion animal. The new law expresses explicitly that all dogs and cats, regardless of their use, origin, or location where they live, will be considered companion animals, thus protected. This definition is obviously quite unwelcome by the hunting community, which will be unable to carry on with many of the practices they perform today as all dogs, hunting dogs included, will be better protected.

In coalition with this upcoming law, another draft is just closed for public consultation. Not many people talk about it, but I believe it is pretty important too, and it refers to what is considered a zoologic nucleus. A zoologic nucleus establishes the maximum number of animals a person can have before there is a need for an official license, and therefore supervision and control. The new number will be five, so everyone should have a special permit after the fifth dog. This will bring a lot of transparency and accountability to many practices that involve animals. But, of course, hunters are unhappy and will fight this measure in whatever way they can.

The possible future law in detail

These are most of the points treated in this draft.

General Prohibitions

  1. Animal sacrifice. Euthanasia will only be justified under veterinary criteria and control for the sole purpose of avoiding suffering in cases of incurable disease or injuries.
  2. Abuse or physically attack animals and subject them to negligent treatment or any practice that may cause them suffering, physical or psychological damage, or death.
  3. The bulls (bullfighting) are not included in the sections of the new bill.
  4. Abandon them in closed or open spaces.
  5. Perform all kinds of mutilation or body modifications; Exceptions are those required by therapeutic necessity to guarantee their health or limit or cancel their reproductive capacity.
  6. Use animals in fights or train them for such and similar practices, like instigating aggression toward other animals or people.
  7. Use them in public or artistic shows, touristic or advertising activities, which cause them anguish, pain, or suffering. It is also forbidden to use them in mechanical attractions, fair carousels, and have wild fauna species in circus shows.
  8. Using animals on an itinerant basis as a claim or to use them for begging.
  9. Submitting them to inappropriate or excessive work.
  10. The use of spiked collars or leashes that could harm animals will not be allowed.
  11. The use of skewers, straps, collars, and other similar arrangements that hang or electrical devices that cause damage and suffering to animals without prejudice to the exceptions established by regulation.
  12. Using companion animals for human or animal consumption.
  13. Silvestrism or illegal wild hunt of small birds, especially the capture of finches and singing birds.
  14. Feed animals with viscera, corpses, and other animal parts that have not passed the appropriate health controls.
  15. Use animals as an object of reward, prize, raffle, or promotion.
  16. Permanently keep animals on terraces, balconies, roofs, storage rooms, basements, patios, and the like or vehicles.
  17. Carry animals tied to motor vehicles in motion.
  18. The release or introduction into the natural environment of specimens of any domestic animal.
  19. The removal of pet carcasses without checking their identification is mandatory. Not to notify competent administration to remove the corpse of an identified pet will also be punishable.
  20. Use any device, mechanism, or utensil intended to limit or impede their mobility except if advised by veterinary prescription.
  21. Leave any companion animal unsupervised for three consecutive days, and in the case of the canine species, this period may not exceed twenty-four straight hours.

The responsibilities of dog owners are

  1. To carry out actions or genetic selection practices that prevent severe problems or alterations in the animal's health.
  2. Unauthorized breeding of any kind of pet is forbidden.
  3. Commercializing companion animals in stores and their exhibition and exposure to the public for commercial purposes is not allowed.
  4. Commercialization, donation, or delivery for the adoption of unidentified animals is not permitted.
  5. The use of animals as an advertising claim, except for the exercise of activities related to them, prior administrative authorization must be obtained.

General obligations

In the specific section of this preliminary draft dedicated to pets, appear 10 general obligations:
  1. Keep pets integrated into the family nucleus in a good state of cleanliness and hygiene.
  2. Animals that, for reasons of well-being, size, or characteristics of their species, cannot coexist in the family nucleus, must have adequate accommodation, with rooms according to their dimensions and that protect them from inclement weather. In the case of gregarious animals, in no case may they be kept isolated from humans or other animals, and they will be provided with the company they require.
  3. Adopt the necessary measures to avoid the uncontrolled reproduction of companion animals. Animals that are kept or have access to the outside of the houses and may have uncontrolled contact with other animals must be sterilized. If there are animals of the same species and of different sexes in the same location, at least all members of one of the sexes must be sterilized, except in the case of breeders registered in the National Breeders Registry.
  4. Do not leave them at any time inside closed vehicles, exposed to meteorological conditions that could endanger their lives.
  5. Companion animals may not remain on a leash or roam in public spaces without face-to-face supervision by the person responsible for their care and behavior.
  6. Prevent animals from depositing their excrement and urine in places other people usually pass by, such as facades, doors, or entrances to establishments. Owners should proceed, in any case, to remove or clean them with biodegradable products.
  7. In the case of canine species, take responsibility that the animals pass the behavioral validations established by regulation.
  8. Provide them with the veterinary treatments established as mandatory by the Public Administrations.
  9. In the case of companion animals that, due to their characteristics and species, live permanently in cages, aquariums, terrariums, and the like, they must have adequate spaces in size, naturalization, and environmental enrichment for their possession.
  10. Avoid uncontrolled reproduction; breeding can only be carried out by authorized breeders.

Missing things

Thanks to the organization "No a la caza con Galgos y otras Razas," which was very active in proposing objections and improvements when the draft came about, I was made aware of a few things that could make this law even better. For example, the law does not provide any obligation to establish a census with the number of all rescued animals in collaboration with public and private shelters.

After seeing all the pressures that the Ministry of Social Affairs is receiving after making the draft public, Plataforma NAC fears that the law will be modified so much that it will lose the essence of what it tries to defend.

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