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What you need to consider before adopting a rescue dog in Spain

A quarter of all Spanish households have one or more dogs. If you're considering getting a rescue dog, there's a lot to factor in beforehand. Here's how you go about adopting a dog in Spain.

rescue dog Spain
Adopting a rescue dog in Spain. Photo: Lenka Novotná / Pixabay

Spaniards love their pets, especially dogs. In fact, there are estimated to be a whopping 13 million pets registered in Spain and 93 percent of these are dogs. This means there are more pets in Spain than children under the age of 15. 

Spain’s Ley de Protección Animal, allowing a new set of animal protection laws, came into force in February 2022, following a new law that came into effect in January which recognised pets as “living, sentient beings” for the first time.

If you’re thinking of bringing a fur baby into your home, you may be considering adopting a rescue dog over buying a puppy.

Not only will you be gaining a new friend, but you will be giving them a second chance at life. 

What you need to be aware of before you adopt a dog in Spain

Before you decide to adopt a dog, you have to think carefully, not just about if this is the right decision for you, but also if you will be able to provide a good life for a dog and if it will ultimately be happy.

Remember that a dog is for life, so you need to think about whether you plan to stay in Spain long term. If not, then you need to consider whether the dog will be able to make an international move and all the logistics involved with that.

One of the first considerations is whether your landlord will allow pets in the property, if you rent. You also need to think about how many times a day you’re able to take the dog out for walks, particularly if you live in an apartment and the dog doesn’t have access to a garden.

READ ALSO – Renting in Spain when you have a pet: What are my rights?

Remember also that you should consider the amount of time you spend at home. Dogs can’t be left for long periods of time on their own, particularly rescue dogs who may have abandonment issues. If you work from home, this could be a good solution, otherwise, you may also need to think about someone to look after the dog while you’re at work all day or who can drop in to spend time with them and take them for a walk. 

Another very important factor you have to consider is the financial requirements of having a dog. Veterinary bills can be expensive, particularly if you’re adopting a rescue dog that may already have health issues. It’s a good idea to get pet insurance too, which you need to factor into your costs.You may have to consider getting third-party liability insurance (seguro de responsabilidad civil), with dog breeds classified as “dangerous” as it’s compulsory.

Fear, separation anxiety, and aggression are common behavioural issues in dogs raised in hostile or traumatic environments, so you need to be aware of this when adopting a rescue dog. It can take time and patience to help a new dog settle into a new home and overcome any behavioural issues. 

The adoption agency or shelter should be able to provide support for these issues and recommend dog behaviour specialists or trainers to help.  

How to adopt a dog

After you have taken everything above into consideration, the next step is to contact a dog adoption agency or charity. Almost every area in Spain has some type of animal rescue charity or shelter, so it shouldn’t be a problem finding one near where you live. We have also listed some below.

Typically you will first fill out an online form on the organisation’s website so that they can assess your suitability as a dog owner before you can go to the shelter and meet any potential matches.

The form will ask questions such as the type of property you live in, whether or not you’ve owned a dog before, if you have any other pets already, if you have children and their ages, how active you are and how much time you spend at home.

If you are found to be suitable, someone from the agency will contact you with any suitable matches they have, based on the personality of the dog, whether or not they would get on with other animals, or children, the breed and how much energy they have. You can also request information on a particular dog you like the look of on their website. 

Once the shelter has found a potential match and you feel like a particular dog would be a good fit, you are ready to make it official. Typically, you will have to pay an adoption fee, which would cover items such as the dog’s vaccinations, sterilisation and veterinary bills before everything is finalised and you can take the dog home.

Don’t forget, adopting an adult rescue dog is a huge commitment, one that’s likely to be more challenging than rearing a pooch you’ve had since it was a puppy. But as anyone with a rescue dog will tell you, it can be extremely rewarding and the animals are very grateful for the second chance you’ve given them.

Around 162,000 dogs were abandoned in Spain in 2020 according to charity Fundación Affinity. You have to be certain you will help to solve this problem, not perpetuate it. The new fines for abandoning a pet in Spain are €30,000.

Adoption organisations in Spain

Save a life is a non-governmental organisation that protects homeless animals and has many dogs for adoption all over Spain.

Animals Sense Sostre is an NGO in Catalonia that has around 200 dogs up for adoption every year. All the dogs come with an adoption contract, are sterilised, vaccinated, dewormed and microchipped.

SCAN is a registered charity rescuing and re-homing abandoned cats and dogs in the northern Costa Blanca area.

S.P.A.M.A is an established registered Spanish charity. The shelter is located in Gandia, in the Valencia region and has several dogs up for adoption.

Centre d’Acollida d’Animals de Companyia (CAACB) is run by the Barcelona City Council and takes in around 2,500 pets a year with the aim of promoting adoptions and encouraging responsible ownership. 

Last Chance Animal Rescue is an official charity that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes abandoned and abused Spanish animals in distress. They are located in the Málaga area.

SOS Animal is a non-profit association, founded in 1995 with the aim of helping animals in need in Mallorca. They have both dogs and cats looking for homes.

There are also several Facebook pages you can join, where various charities and organisations will post about the dogs that need adopting or fostering or you can ask about where the best places to adopt in your area are. 

Dogs Barcelona is a good option if you’re based in Catalonia. 

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For members


How much does it cost to keep a pet in Spain?

Many people in Spain own a pet, but how much does it actually cost to keep your furry friend? Find out what the average expenses in Spain are for vet bills, pet food, and pet insurance.

How much does it cost to keep a pet in Spain?

Let’s face it, owning a pet can be expensive, as well as basic items such as food, leashes, and litter trays, there are vet bills to pay, vaccination and grooming costs, which can soon mount up.  

According to the most recent data from Veterindustria, the Spanish Business Association of Animal Health and Nutrition in collaboration with the National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers (ANFAAC), 50.2 percent of families in Spain own some type of pet.

A survey by the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) suggests that 65 percent ​​of the owners have a dog, 44 percent have a cat, 15 percent have a small bird, 11 percent have a turtle, seven percent have fish and just six percent have a hamster or other type of rodent.

The OCU discovered that people in Spain spend an average of €1131 per year on a dog and €986 on a cat. This can be quite a big expense and works out to €94.25 per month for dog owners and €82.16 per month for cat owners.

Find out how is this broken up, what the biggest expense is, and if there are any ways you can save money as a pet owner in Spain.

READ ALSO – Renting in Spain when you have a pet: What are my rights?

Pet food costs

The biggest expense in owning a pet is food, according to the OCU survey. Pet owners spend an average of €47 per month on dog food and €44 on cats. This equates to €564 and €528 per year respectively.

But, pet food doesn’t need to be so expensive, in fact, the OCU state that it’s possible to save up to €300 per year if you choose wisely.

During their pet study, they also discovered that the most expensive brands of pet food weren’t necessarily the best and did not always meet the nutritional needs of the animal.

For cats, they discovered that a 5kg bag of dry food costs between €0.40 and €0.50 per day, while wet food costs €4 per day.

Be aware, that the report found there were no good dry food brands that completely met the nutritional needs of a cat for less than €3 per kg, so while you can save money it’s best not to buy the very cheapest brands on the market.

READ ALSO: Can Brits move to Spain with their pets post-Brexit?

Veterinary costs

Whatever happens, at some point you will need to take your pet to the vet. Even if they don’t get sick very often, they will need vaccinations, check-ups, and sterilisation.

According to a report by the Spanish Veterinary Management Studies (VMS), the average price of a vet visit in Spain is €34.

Average prices for other common veterinary services include ultrasounds (€56), X-rays (€40), rabies vaccine (€26), castration of dogs (€150) and cats (€85), and mouth or teeth cleaning (€108).  

In Barcelona, the prices were among the highest in the country, well above the average, while in Andalusia and the Canary Islands, the prices were below the average.  It is also worth noting that veterinary centres have increased their prices by 4.98 percent since last year, due to recent inflation.  

When you first get a pet there are other costs involved too, such as the registration and microchipping costs. Typically these are sold in a pack along with basic vaccinations and vary widely in price. If you want to travel with your pet, getting a pet passport can add further costs on top of this. For example, in Madrid, it costs around €25 for a pet passport and another €25 for a vet certificate. 

Pet insurance costs

According to the OCU survey, in the last 12 months, 45 percent of dogs had to have an emergency trip to the vet and 24 percent of cats. As we’ve seen above, vet costs can build up, but if you have pet insurance this can help cover the cost of the financial burden.

Pet insurance varies widely, depending on exactly what it covers. Here are some of the costs for the most popular insurance companies.

  • Caser pet insurance €199 per year
  • Adeslas Mascotas basic from €5.58 per month or complete cover from €24.74 per month
  • Mapfre from €64 per year
  • Asisa Mascotas from €9,47 per month