EXPLAINED: The rules for having a pet in Spain under the new animal protection law

Spain’s Animal Protection Law is set to receive full legislative approval on Friday, a bill which includes a wide array of recommendations and prohibitions aimed at giving pets and other animals greater protection against abuse and abandonment. 

animal protection law spain
The new Animal Protection Law includes a number of general obligations and well as new prohibitions. Photo: Justin Veenema/Unsplash

After several months of discussions, Spain’s Ley de Protección Animal will on Friday February 18th receive approval by the Spanish Cabinet, allowing a new set of animal protection laws to finally come into force.

This follows a new law that came into effect on January 5th 2022 which recognises pets as “living, sentient beings” for the first time, and not mere objects.

Family courts must now consider both the animal’s welfare, as well as the family needs, when deciding who looks after the dog, cat, goldfish, turtle or bird after a break-up or divorce, in many cases resulting in shared custody.

But Spain’s left-wing coalition government wants to take animal protection even further, in a country with the worst animal abandonment figures in Europe (258,3000 reported cases in 2020).

“We’ve received many animals which we are calling the Covid generation, as it started with a boom in animals that were arriving at an age that meant that they were adopted as puppies or in infancy at the start of the pandemic,” Lola Bernardo, founder of Madrid animal shelter Abrazo Animal, told National Geographic.

The new Animal Protection Law includes a number of general obligations such as keeping pets integrated within the family unit, well groomed and washed, preventing uncontrolled breeding, never keeping pets alone inside vehicles, cleaning up their faeces and other common sense advice for the majority of pet owners. 

But the bill also includes a number of new important prohibitions, such as a ban on ear cropping, the forbidden sale of most animals in pet shops and other punishable offences which may again be well-known to most animal lovers, but clearly not all. 

What stands out for its absence is any measure relating to bullfighting, a traditional but extremely controversial practice which continues to divide Spanish society. 

These are the actions which are forbidden under Spain’s new Animal Protection Law:

Mistreating or physically abusing animals. 

Treating animals negligently or undertaking other practises that can cause them suffering, physical or psychological harm or even death.

Abandoning animals in either indoor or outdoor spaces.

Mutilating or carrying out cosmetic bodily modifications on animals, with the exception of operations necessary to ensure their well being or for sterilisation purposes, which must be accredited by a veterinarian’s report.

Using an animal for fighting purposes or training them to be aggressive.   

Using animals for artistic or commercial purposes as well as other public spectacles that cause them anxiety, suffering or pain. 

Breeding for genetic selection purposes that could result in health problems for the animal, or any unauthorised breeding of pets

Selling or exhibiting animals in shops for commercial purposes (except fish). The transfer of animals, whether at a price or free, has to be carried out directly with the breeder or shelter without any intermediaries seeking a profit. The sale of animals by unlicensed breeders or regular pet owners is not allowed.

Donating or adopting an unidentified animal. The free transfer of ownership must be reflected in a contract, along with the animal’s identification details.

Using animals in advertising without prior official permission. 

Using collars, leashes or spikes that strangle the animal or electric devices that can cause harm to the animal.

Tying an animal to a moving vehicle. 

Using domestic pets for animal or human consumption. 

Euthanising an animal without prior permission from a vet and without any other purpose than avoiding its suffering. 

Using an animal for unsuitable or arduous work based on the animal’s traits. 

Using an animal for begging purposes. 

Bird trapping, especially finches. 

Feeding pets carcasses, entrails or offal from animals that haven’t undergone the correct health checks.

Gifting animals as a reward, prize, in raffles or in sale offers.

Permanently keeping pets on balconies, terraces, attics, storage rooms, basements, vehicles or other similar spaces. 

Permanently releasing domestic pets into the wild or other environments in nature.

Disposing of a dead animal’s body without prior identification or notification to the relevant authorities.

Using any device or mechanism designed to restrict their mobility unless prescribed by a vet.

Leaving an animal unsupervised for three consecutive days. Depending on the type of dog breed, this period should not be longer than 24 consecutive hours.

Culling feral feline colonies without prior authorisation from local governments and carried out by anyone other than a vet.

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Why does tap water taste strange in some parts of Spain?

If you live in Spain or spend time here, you've probably noticed that the tap water tastes pretty bad in some parts of the country. Why is that? And where in Spain is the best (and worst) tap water?

Why does tap water taste strange in some parts of Spain?

A common query of foreign tourists abroad is ‘can I drink the tap water here?’.

Often these kinds of instincts come from memories of over-protective parents on summer holidays, but fortunately for us it isn’t really a relevant one in Spain.

Despite what some overly cautious people might say, at least 99.5 percent of Spain’s water supply is safe to drink, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health.

In Spain there are over 1,200 dams and 100,000 kilometres of distribution network that supplies tap water across the country.

And it is heavily regulated and tested, experts say. According to the director general of the Spanish Association of Water Supply and Sanitation (AEAS) Fernando Morcillo, “it [water] is the food product that passes the most controls.”

Spanish tap water is, simply put, perfectly safe to drink and heavily tested.

READ ALSO: Drought forces water use rethink in Spain

The taste

Reassuring though it is that Spanish tap water is entirely drinkable and regularly tested, it doesn’t change the fact that there can be great variation in the taste depending where exactly in the country you are. 

So, why does the tap water taste a little strange in some parts of Spain when it should be odourless and tasteless? 

Speaking in general terms, water is collected locally in dams and swamps, and then filtered, chlorinated, and transported to wherever it is going before coming out of our taps.

The local geography of this process – that is, not only where you live but where your water is collected and where it passes through on its way – can have a big impact on how it tastes at the other end.

Water treatment also contributes to making it a ‘heavy’ tap water with hints of chlorine, and when it comes to desalinated seawater, leftover magnesium and sodium are common.

If you ask many Spaniards, they’ll tell you that the tap water is ‘bad’ or worse on the coast.

Tap water in places like Valencia, Alicante and Málaga usually has a chemical odour and taste and many locals prefer bottled water.

Why is that? After the filtering process, water on the way to the coast can pick up more sediment and chemicals. The taste of tap water has a lot to do with the terrain it is collected in and the type of earth and rock it passes through on the way to your house.

Let’s take the tap water in Catalonia, for example, which comes from one of two main sources: the river Ter and the river Llobregat.

The Ter has low levels of contamination, but the Llobregat does not. Therefore, if you drink water somewhere on the banks of Llobregat, it will have more of a noticeable chemical flavour than water from the Lobregat. 

Many people who live in Madrid swear they have the best tap water in Spain. Although not quite the best in the country, Madrileños are right that it’s better than most and it comes down to where the water passes through.

Unlike in Catalonia, Madrid’s Sierra de Guadarrama has an advantage over other areas because the stone is mostly made up of granite, which better facilitates the filtration of minerals.

tap water safe spain

Despite what some overly cautious people might say, at least 99.5 percent of Spain’s water supply is safe to drink, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health. Photo: Kaboompics/Pixabay.

Where the predominant rock in the earth is more calcareous, it will generally taste worse, since limestone is soluble and produces a very ‘hard water’ that doesn’t taste as good. That’s why the tap water in areas such as Alicante, Valencia and Murcia has a worse flavour, plus the fact that they are all coastal areas.

Talking in very general terms, if you were to draw an imaginary line that ran from Andorra diagonally across Spain all the way down to Cádiz, the ‘soft’ or better tasting tap waters will be the north of the line and the ‘harder’ waters the south and east of the line.

There are some exceptions, of course, depending on local geography and filtration processes. 

The best and worst

Spain’s consumer watchdog, the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU), took samples of the tap water in 62 municipalities across Spain and had them analysed for their degree of mineralization and ‘hardness’, their hygienic quality, and level of possible contaminants. They then produced a report ranking the results

So, where in Spain has the best quality tap water and which has the worst?

The best

Despite what many Madrileños will tell you, Spain’s best tap water isn’t in Madrid. According to the OCU’s testing, the highest quality tap water in Spain was found in:

  • Burgos – Tap water in the northern Castile and León municipality had very few minerals, no lime no contaminants of any kind.
  • San Sebastián – Another northern area, San Sebastian in Basque Country has water with very light mineralization and is excellent in all hygiene and pollution parameters.
  • Las Palmas – Surprisingly, despite being on an island, Las Palmas de Canarias snuck into the top three.

Generally speaking, and as outlined above, the broader Levant coastal area, as well as the Spanish islands, are generally the areas where locals say the tap water isn’t quite as good.

The worst

And what about the worst?

  • Lebanza – In Lebanza, Palencia, the OCU found the presence of E. Coli, an indicator of fecal and recent contamination, and was generally found to have a very poor water quality.
  • Ciudad Real: Tap water in the Castilla-La-Mancha city had traces of trihalomethanes, a substance that comes from the combination of chlorine with the organic matter of water during water purification. 
  • Palma de Mallorca: Hardly surprising as it’s an island, but the water in Palma de Mallorca proved to very hard and very mineralized, which gives a bad taste. The most worrying thing, though, was that the OCU’s testing found that it contained 26 mg/litre of nitrates. Inside the stomach, nitrates are transformed into nitrites, which can cause serious health problems for children.
  • Barcelona, Huelva and Logroño: all cities on or close to the coast, the OCU found a high presence of aerobic microorganisms in the water in all three.