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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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.