There is a well-structured system of laws for animal protection and welfare in Spain. On the one hand, the central government is responsible for the laws related to wildlife protection, sanctions for animal abuse at all levels, sanitary requirements for domestic and farm animals as well as special laws intended to regulate the ownership of potentially aggressive domestic animals.
On the other hand, the autonomous regions and the town halls have specific laws related to the protection and the welfare of domestic animals with a local application.
The region’s competence covers the following aspects:
- General rules applicable to all kinds of animals, like minimal care they should receive, treatment, sanitation and transport, as well as regulations for the sale and trade of animals.
- Regulations for ownership and treatment of pets, in relation to the hygienic-sanitary requirements to be observed and the consequences of abandoning animals, as well as collection, euthanasia, sterilization, and standards to be met by facilities that will temporally host abandoned animals.
- Regulations for native fauna, related to the capture, hunting, possession, trafficking, trade, sale, import and export, as well as taxidermy and exhibitions.
Law in Andalusia
The government of Andalucía updated the law for the protection and welfare of animals with the law 11/2003 of 24th November. The law is extensive and covers aspects related to minimal sanitary conditions, transport, vaccinations and identification, to name but a few.
A summary of the law
In practice the law will enforce a series of obligations for the owner and the people taking care of domestic animals.
The person caring for a pet has the following obligations:
- Keep the animal in good sanitary and hygienic conditions, apply all compulsory veterinary treatments and assist the pet with the help of a qualified veterinarian
- Give the pet a suitable accommodation in relation to its size, race and species
- Feed it with a suitable diet for healthy development
- Protect the pet from aggressions, dangerous situations or discomfort from other animals or people
- Prevent the pet from attacking other animals or people, as well from creating any kind of damage
- Report the loss of the pet to the authorities.
The owner of a pet has the following obligations:
- Obtain authorizations, permits and licenses related to the animal in question
- Inscribe the pet at the town hall according to the specific laws related to the species. It is compulsory for cats and dogs.
Additionally the law forbids:
- To mistreat, physically aggress or any other practice provoking suffering or unjustified damage
- The abandonment of the animal
- To keep the pet in a place or site unsuitable from the hygienic point of view or in relation to its size, race, species and care needed
- The practice of aesthetical mutilations
- Euthanasia without the necessary conditions approved by law
- Keep the pet permanently attached or confined to a restricted space (with specific exceptions considered by law)
- To donate pets in the purpose of publicity, as prizes or any form of compensation other than the conscious and responsible purchase by the owner
- To use the pet in experiments against current legislation
- To sell pets to persons under 16 years of age or to incapacitated persons
- To sell pets outside regulated and designated areas
- To give to the animal any kind of substances creating unnecessary suffering or any kind of unauthorized substance in particular during a competition
- To force an animal of less than 6 month old, ill, tired, malnourished or pregnant, to work
- To use the animal in order to train another animal to attack or to fight
- Cock fighting, dog fighting, or any other similar practice
Cats and dogs have to be individually identified with a standard ID microchip that will be implanted under the skin within 3 months of birth by an authorized veterinarian. Once the ID system is in place the pet will have to be inscribed in the “pet registry” of the town hall of the town where the animal normally lives. This will have to be done within 3 months of birth, within one month after the purchase or within one month after the change of residence.
The owner will have to deregister the pet within one month from death, or change of ownership.
This identification will enable authorities to identify the owner in case the pet is lost or abandoned.
Abandonment is punishable
A domestic animal is considered abandoned when it has no identification and is considered lost when it is free without vigilance. If the pet is found by the authorities, the owner will have to collect it from the animal shelter within 5 days and will have to pay the expenses incurred by the shelter. If the pet is not collected within 10 days it will be considered abandoned and preparations will begin for its adoption. Any way the owner will be considered responsible and could incur a fine for abandoning the pet.
If after a specific period determined by the local town hall the pet is not adopted, the shelter’s administration can decide to put the animal down. This will be done by an authorized veterinarian using a humane method and under total anaesthesia. The owner will have to be informed before any such action is taken.
If the pet is severely ill with very little chance of recovery or if an aggressive pet presents a danger for the owner or other people, the owner can decide to have the animal put down. This can be done only by an authorized veterinarian and will be done at his discretion. If the veterinarian believes that the pet can recover from its illness he is entitled to refuse to put it down. He is also entitled to report the owner if he finds clear evidence of cruelty.
The sanctions for cruelty to animals are clearly stated in article 337 of the Spanish penal code. Anyone mistreating a domestic animal causing death, injuries or physical impairments will be punished with a prison sentence from 3 months to one year with subsequent disqualification from one to 3 years from any trade or business related to animals.
Other infractions can be sanctioned with fines from 75€ to 30,000€.
Spain and Andalusia have several legal instruments to punish domestic animal abuse.
However anyone witnessing cruelty or who has sufficient evidence related to infractions of the law on domestic animal welfare must report it to the local police (Policia local), the sanitary and veterinary services of the community of Andalusia or the Guardia Civil unit responsible for environment protection (SEPRONA). The authorities will carry out an investigation for the local competent tribunals.
In order to increase the chances of success, the report should be supported by concrete data of the crimes, the witnesses and the offenders. A generic report without supporting evidence will generally have little or no effect.