What are Spain’s new animal welfare laws?

In the last few years, Spain has taken steps to improve animal welfare by implementing new laws. Most recently, a new set of legislation came into effect last week. It gives the authorities the power to safeguard animal wellbeing further by punishing anyone who leaves pets unattended, for example.

There will be penalties of up to €200,000 for those found guilty of mistreating animals. However, the legislation currently excludes fighting bulls, hunting dogs, and dolphins performing in marine parks, prompting discussions about the seeming inconsistencies within the law.

Despite these exemptions, animal rights groups view this legislation as a landmark achievement, marking Spain’s inaugural dedicated animal rights law. It signifies a pivotal shift, indicating that the treatment of animals has emerged as a central topic within the political discourse of the country.

Key provisions of the law include a prohibition on purchasing pets from retail stores and online platforms. Instead, pets may now only be obtained from registered breeders. Moreover, the law grants pets access to restaurants and bars, a departure from previous practices where they were often tethered outside.

Wild animals, such as lions and tigers, are banned from circuses, and marine parks are allowed to continue using dolphins until the natural end of their lives. The omission of bullfights, a deeply divisive issue in Spanish culture, has generated significant debate.

Additionally, a proposal to include hunting dogs in the legislation faced resistance and was ultimately excluded, highlighting the challenges of balancing cultural traditions with evolving societal values.

Spain’s animal rights movement has gained momentum, with approximately 29 million pets, predominantly dogs, residing in the country. Alarming rates of pet abandonment necessitated the introduction of mandatory pet insurance, registration, and owner training, pivotal elements of the new legislation. Nonetheless, enforcement and certain legal aspects have experienced delays due to Spain’s ongoing political situation.

Looking ahead, AnimaNaturalis, an animal rights group, continues to advocate for the inclusion of hunting dogs in future legislation. The European Union (EU) also grapples with animal welfare issues, primarily focusing on farm animals.

In a recent interview with Euronews, a representative from Animanaturalis said, “In terms of the hunting dogs, it is a battle which we have lost unfortunately for the hunting dogs. The owners of these dogs did not want them to be registered. But despite everything it is good news that all dogs should be registered.”

“The mere existence of this pioneering legislation at a state level is an achievement for the animal rights movement which has managed to put animal rights at the centre of the political agenda permanently.”

While the EU has made strides, varying levels of commitment and differing regulations across member states underscore the complexity of achieving comprehensive animal welfare measures.

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