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What we know about Spain's compulsory course to own a dog

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
What we know about Spain's compulsory course to own a dog
Photo: brennermatthias/Pixabay.

One of the most talked about parts of Spain's new animal welfare legislation is that dog owners will be required to complete a compulsory course.


New legislation means that dog owners in Spain will have to complete a compulsory course, but it is not known yet when this rule will come into force.

Spain's ley de bienestar animal (or animal welfare law in English) seeks to protect the wellbeing of animals, whether they are kept as pets or are wild animals used in circuses or cock fighting.

The law will officially enter into force on September 29th 2023, six months after its publication in the Official State Gazette (BOE).

However, there are several elements which will not be enforced on that date, including the compulsory dog owner course. Once the outcome of Spain's deadlock general election and subsequent investiture votes produce a government (or after another general election if Sánchez doesn't gain an absolute majority), it will be possible for these outstanding changes to be brought into force.

Spain's animal welfare law is an incredibly wide-ranging piece of legislation (more on what else it includes below) but it's also proven unpopular with many animal rights group who believe it's been rushed through government without it first being verified by professionals.

READ ALSO: How can I travel with my pet from Spain to the UK without it going in the hold?

Dog ownership course: what you need to know

According to Article 30 of the bill: “people who opt to be dog owners must accredit the completion of a training course for dog ownership, which shall be valid indefinitely”. This means that existing dog owners will not have to do it.

The course will be free, can be completed online, and compulsory both for those who are going to adopt a dog and for those who are already owners. It can be completed in person or online, and its objective is to acquire basic knowledge "in the handling, care and keeping of animals".

Though the exact details of the course are yet to be announced, Spain's General director of Animal Rights, Sergio García Torres said last year that: "We are talking about a short training course. It's very similar to courses that food handlers take to work in restaurants. It’s a free course that is done online and is relatively easy."

As part of the course, you will also have to take out civil liability insurance, in order to protect third parties, and must agree that you will not leave your dog home alone for more than 24 hours or locked up on a balcony, terrace or patio.

At the moment, the specific content of the course is unclear but will, according to the law, "be determined by regulation". However, Spain's Royal Canine Society has announced that it will include at least three parts: one on care and veterinary care, another on animal welfare and another on animal legislation.

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

Once completed, the accreditation will be valid indefinitely. Both current dog owners and future owners will have two years from the date of entry into force of the law.


What happens if I don't take the course?

If you fail to take the course, you will face a fine of between €500 and €10,000.

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Are there any exceptions?

Hunting, herding and livestock guarding dogs will be exempt from the course and will be classified as "special handling dogs outside specific activities" under the legislation.

However, this has proven to be one of the most controversial points of the law as hunting or working dogs, such as sheepdogs, will not be included. The law states that "in the case of dogs used in hunting, grazing and livestock guarding activities and with respect to the people who handle them, they will not be subject to behavioural validations, specific veterinary checks of aptitude or have to be in possession of a veterinary certificate accrediting said aptitude, nor have specific qualifications or training courses".


Other new rules

The animal welfare law also contains a number of new things pet owners in Spain more generally should be aware of.

The new law proposal includes another important new regulation for dog ownership in Spain: all pets (including dogs) will have to be registered in the pet register, which is still to be developed.

READ ALSO: Seven key points from Spain’s new animal welfare law


This means that by law they will have to have a minimum hygiene and cleanliness and, if you have more than one dog of different breeds (male and female) they will have to be sterilised. The exception is that "at least all members of one of the sexes" must be sterilised.

The new law also prohibits the use of wild animals in circuses such as elephants or lions, as is already the case in many regions across Spain. Failure to comply with this rule will be considered a very serious infraction with a fine of up to €200,00.

It will also implement a set of rules to control the breeding and sale of animals. In general terms, individuals will be prohibited from breeding pets and will it only be allowed by those who are properly registered professionals, who must comply with all animal welfare guarantees.

One of the most heavily punishable parts of the law is the ban on cock fighting. There are only two regions left in Spain that still allow it, the Canary Islands and Andalusia.


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