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LIFE IN SPAIN

Who gets the dog after a break-up? Spain starts shared custody

In the case of a break-up or divorce, who keeps the family cat or dog? Spain has ruled that as of January 5th 2022 pets are members of the family and spouses should in many cases share custody if they break up.

a couple with their pet. Spain is the latest European country to recognise animals as sentient beings
Spain is the latest European country to recognise animals as sentient beings. Photo: Chewy/Unsplash

There was hardly any doubt about it already among animal lovers, but pets are now officially considered members of the family in Spain. 

A new law that came into effect on Wednesday January 5th recognises pets as “living, sentient beings” for the first time, and not mere objects.

As a result, family courts must consider both the animal’s welfare, as well as the family needs, when deciding who looks after the dog, cat, goldfish, turtle or bird.

Spain is the latest European country to recognise animals as sentient beings, joining a group that includes France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.

The legislation, which was drafted by the ruling Socialists and their leftist coalition partners Podemos, aims to end the legal wrangling that often erupts among estranged couples over who keeps the pets.

It stipulates that owners must “guarantee” the pet’s well-being and that if either spouse has a history of cruelty to animals or gender violence against their former partner he or she may be refused or lose custody of the animal.

The law, which amends Spain’s civil code, also requires courts to consider the animal’s welfare when settling disputes over who inherits a pet.

Whether it’s a non-marital separation or a divorce, there can be shared custody, in which case judicial authorities must assist in asigning a number of days for each spouse as well as their responsabilities. 

In the event of the owner’s death and when a will does not specify anything in relation to companion animals, pets will be delivered to the heirs who claim them in accordance with the law.

If none of the heirs want to take care of the animal, or if several heirs claim custody, a judge will have the final say, as well as consider third parties who are interested in adopting the pet. 

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MONEY

How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

With welcome news that Spain will cut VAT on electricity from 10 percent to five percent to shield consumers from soaring inflation, how much can you expect to actually save?

How much can I save on my Spanish electricity bill now that VAT has been cut?

On Wednesday June 22nd Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a further reduction in VAT on electricity prices.

Speaking to the Spanish parliament, Sánchez explained that the VAT reduction, from 10 percent to five percent, would be approved at a cabinet meeting this weekend.

But this isn’t the first time that the Spanish government has taken direct action to tackle skyrocketing electricity prices.

Last year it also slashed the VAT rate on electricity 21 percent to 10 percent to try and soften impact of rising electricity price rises on consumers facing price increases across the board.

Facing criticism for his government’s record on helping consumers, Sánchez blamed “a war at the gates of Europe” for the rises, and said the latest cut will form part of a package of measures to try and stem the effects of inflation, which hit a staggering 8.7 percent in May, the highest level in Spain for decades.

READ MORE: Spain to cut electricity tax by half to ease inflation pain

But how much can you actually expect to save on your electricity bill following the news?

How much will I save?

While a cut to the VAT rate paid on electricity is welcome, in reality it seems the difference to electricity bills will be minimal.

According to experts, lowering VAT from 10 to 5 percent will mean savings of around €4 a month for households with an average consumption (270 kWH per month and a contracted power of 4 kW) on the regulated market.

Let’s look at an example. A household with consumption at 270 kWH per month would have paid €95.43 in the last 31 days. If VAT had been applied at 5 percent, as it will be under the government’s proposed cut, their monthly bill would have worked out €4.30 cheaper.

For comparison, if the government had not stepped in at all and no tax reductions of any kind had been applied, that same receipt would have been €109.6. 

How much will it cost the government?

Cutting VAT, although welcome and much needed by most consumers at the moment, does come at a cost. Officials from the Hacienda believe that lowering VAT to 5 percent will cost the public coffers up to €460 million in the next three months alone. 

Hacienda estimates that the government has so far spent €3.8 billion on all tax cuts to lower electricity bills.

Is it enough?

Is another VAT cut enough to recoup the difference and negate rising prices? Simply put, if wholesale electricity prices (something the Spanish government has no control over) continue to rise at the rate they have been, the prices passed onto the consumer will most likely make the cuts to VAT negligible.

At the start of June, the daily price of electricity began at €210/Mwh, but by this week this Thursday it had already climbed to €272/mWH – a 29.5 percent spike since the beginning of the month equivalent to €62 extra on bills.

With no end to war in Ukraine or the volatility on the energy market in sight, the Spanish government is searching for ways to ease the burden on consumers. Labour Minister Yolanda Díaz recently proposed slashing the price of monthly public transit passes by 50 percent and offering €300 to people hit hardest by rising prices.

READ MORE: Spain eyes €300 handouts for most vulnerable and further fuel reductions

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