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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


What changes for me in Spain if I get an Irish passport?

What happens if you're a non-EU national who has successfully applied for Irish nationality? What changes for you in Spain and do you need to tell the Spanish authorities about your new passport?

What changes for me in Spain if I get an Irish passport?

According to the British authorities, some 420,000 people applied for Irish nationality since the Brexit vote and around 25,000 of these were British nationals living in Spain in just 2018. 

Ireland’s generous approach to citizenship through ancestry means that it’s relatively easy for non-EU nationals such as Brits, Americans or Australians, who have Irish family connections, to get nationality.

But what changes if you want to move to Spain with your new nationality or if you’re already here?

Moving to Spain

If you want to move to Spain and you have recently gained Irish nationality you can do so just like the British did before Brexit, without any need to apply for a visa. You have the same freedom of movement rights as the rest of the EU citizens. 

Within the first three months of living in Spain however, you must apply for your green residency card and NIE number. To do this, you will need to show a reason for wanting to get your card, such as a job offer, buying a house or a car or proving that you have enough savings to support yourself, as well as private health insurance.

If you have a spouse or registered partner who is a non-EU citizen, then they are entitled to apply for a residence card of a family member of a European Union citizen or tarjeta de residencia de familiar comunitario.

READ ALSO – Q&A: Can EU nationals bring non-EU family members over to Spain?

If you just want to visit Spain with your new Irish nationality then you can do so with no need to limit your stays to 90 days in every 180 – as non-EU citizens must. There is no need for a visa for travel either. 

If you wish to work in Spain as an Irish citizen, you can simply move here and start looking for jobs, there’s no need to apply for a work permit. However, you will still need to apply for your green residency card as mentioned above. 

If you get a job in Spain or you become self-employed, you will start paying into the Spanish social security system. Among other benefits, this will entitle you to Spain’s public healthcare system. All you need to do to be able to access is to apply for your public health card and register with your local clinic. Here’s how you apply for your card in each region in Spain. 

If you’re an Irish citizen who lives to Spain for more than 183 you are considered a tax resident and must file an annual tax declaration (Declaración de la Renta), even if you do not have any income in Spain. This rule is the same for EU and non-EU nationals. 


As an EU national you are entitled to vote in local and European elections, but not in general or national elections. Find out about your voting rights here

What if you already live in Spain?

If you already live in Spain and then gain your Irish citizenship, you will still be registered under your first and original nationality.

Therefore, if you change nationalities or gain an extra one, you should inform the authorities. This will make your situation in Spain easier and give you several benefits, as you can see above. It could also mean extra advantages for your spouse and kids through the residence card of a family member of a European Union citizen.

If you are British and you previously had your green residency card, which states your nationality on it, you will need to exchange it for a new one stating your Irish nationality on it instead.

If for example you are British and have now become an EU citizen again because of your Irish nationality, you should be able to exchange your old green residency card at your local national police station for a new one stating your new nationality. If you were already a non-EU citizen, such as an American, you should be able to exchange your TIE for an EU green residency certificate instead. 

Your NIE number on the card is for life, so should stay exactly the same, even if you’ve changed your nationality, so you shouldn’t need to go around changing this with all the companies you’ve given it to.

However, you will need to get a new padrón certificate from your local town hall or ayuntamiento, as this also states your nationality.

Any other official documents involved with residency in Spain that mention your non-EU citizenship will also need to be changed by informing each individual authority.

One of the main ones, if you drive, will be the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT), if you haven’t already exchanged your licence for a Spanish one. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way of informing them all at once.

Each body is likely to want proof of your new citizenship before they make changes on their systems, so there’s likely to be lots of paperwork, plus countless photocopies of your new Irish passport.

If you are working you should also inform your company’s HR department of the change, so that you are not incorrectly asked for proof of residency at any time in the future.


It may sound obvious, but if you want to benefit from European freedom of movement, you need to make sure you are using your Irish passport at the border to travel onwards.

You will also want to ensure you are using your Irish passport every time you leave and re-enter Spain, so that the authorities are not counting the days on your British or other non-EU passport instead.

Remember though, when you go back to your home country, you’re going to want to show your original passport upon arrival. If you’re from the US for example, you can leave Spain on your Irish passport and re-enter the US on your American one. If you’re from the UK it’s not necessary to enter the UK on your British passport, you can simply enter on your Irish one, however, it’s completely up to you.