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Resolved: Questions and doubts about Spain's new animal welfare law

The Local Spain
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Resolved: Questions and doubts about Spain's new animal welfare law
Much of the confusion surrounding the new animal welfare law stems from the fact that it is officially in force yet certain clauses are still pending formal approval. Photo: paula_olly/Pixabay.

Spain's new animal welfare law came into force on September 29th but there have been doubts raised by experts, a lack of clarity on some points, and certain clauses yet to be formally approved.


Spain's new animal welfare law  (ley de bienestar animal) came into force on September 29th 2023 but has already raised significant doubts among experts and pet owners across the country.

The law seeks to protect the wellbeing of animals, yet it has been described by some as a 'half-cooked' law with a lack of clarity, there is still some confusion on certain clauses of the law and some have still yet to be formally approved.

Expert opinion

The law has not proven popular with experts, to say the least. In fact, many suggest that the government drafted it without properly consulting animal experts.

Spain's Partido Animalista (Animal Welfare Party) has described it as the "the most useless in history" and could prove to be "a serious setback" for animals in Spain. Furthermore, the party has criticised the lack of clarity in the bill, something they suggest creates a "cascade of doubts" for pet owners which "seriously compromises its effectiveness" and the protection of animals more broadly.

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

Spanish newspaper El Español spoke to Milagros Marcos, spokeswoman for Agriculture in the People's Parliamentary Group. The law, Marcos says, "has been made without scientific rigour, against biodiversity and without the professionals".

For these reasons, she called for annulment of the law in its entirety, citing the botched sexual consent law (like the animal welfare law, pushed by the junior coalition partner Podemos) which was drafted without or against professional legal advice: "We have already seen what happened with the 'solo sí es sí (sexual consent) law," Marcos added.


Your questions answered

With all the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the new rules, many pet owners around Spain may have some doubts about what the law says, and what they can and can't do according to the letter of the law.

Can I leave my dog alone at home?

Under the new law it is illegal to leave pets alone for days at a time, even if they have enough food and water. The time limit that the law allows dogs to be left unattended is 24 hours, in the case of other pets the limit increases to 72 hours.


Can I use electric training collars?

The use of electric collars as a training system for dogs is not allowed, nor is any other type of tool that could injure the animal.

Can I leave my dog tied up outside a shop?

Dogs may not be left tied up outside a shop. Even if you are going to quickly pop in and out of a shop, pet owners can now face fines of up between €500 and €10,000 for doing so.

Can I leave the animal alone inside a vehicle?

Animals cannot not be left locked in the car, even if it is only for a short time and the weather conditions are not particularly bad. Doing so in conditions that could endanger the animal’s wellbeing could be considered a serious crime.

Do I have to report my pet missing?

As per the law, if your pet or captive wild animal goes missing, it must be reported to the authorities within 48 hours.

Can my pet live on the balcony or in the basement?

Pets cannot live permanently on the terrace, basement, balcony or similar areas of the home.


Which clauses are not in force yet?

Much of the confusion surrounding the new animal welfare law stems from the fact that the law is officially in force yet certain clauses are still pending formal approval. Furthermore, a couple of these will have significant consequences for pet owners.

Training courses: The mandatory training course, one of the more controversial aspects of the legislation, still needs to be regulated. The aim, according to the state law, is to "facilitate responsible dog ownership, which is often conditioned by a lack of knowledge in handling, care and ownership".

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.” 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".

Yet dog owners across the country remain uncertain when and how they will have to do this.

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

Civil liability insurance: The law also obliges dog owners to take out and maintain liability insurance for damage to third parties. Yet the exact type of cover required for each type of dog has yet to be finalised. In the case of potentially dangerous dogs, there is pre-existing regulation, dating back to 2002 - and still in force - which obliges the minimum coverage to be €120,000.

Keeping wild species: The regulation of wild species (birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians, fish, and so on) that can be kept in the home need to be included on a so-called 'positive list'. The scientific and technical committee in charge of deciding whether to exclude or include animals on this list is still yet to be finalised and regulated. The law gives the government a two year period to draw up the list. For the time being, none of the potential punishments will be enforced.


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