What changes does the recently approved Animal Welfare Law bring?

The new Animal Welfare Law, promoted by Minister Ione Belarra, has been approved by Congress in February 2023. We tell you what their keys are.

The new Animal Welfare Law and all its changes: find out how it affects you

Last Thursday, February 9, 2023, the new Animal Welfare Law was approved in the Congress of Deputies of Spain.

The regulation, promoted by the Minister of Social Affairs and Agenda 2030 Ione Belarra, went ahead thanks to the votes in favor of PSOE, Unidas Podemos, ERC, EH Bildu and the CUP. The next step is its processing in the Senate and, if it obtains the approval of that chamber, its publication in the BOE and, finally, its entry into force.

This law has traveled a difficult road until its approval, since it has provoked various controversies.

From dog courses to the prohibition of the possession and breeding of various animal species, the Animal Welfare Law has certainly not left anyone indifferent and has provoked bitter debates between supporters and detractors.

However, it has been the issue of hunting dogs and other animals excluded from the law, which we will talk about later, which has really endangered the approval of the law, to the point of causing a schism between the two government parties, PSOE and UP.

In any case, it is important that you prepare for the next entry into force of the new law and know all its news, since it affects both people who are thinking of adopting an animal and those who already live with one.

To make it as easy as possible, in this article we are going to summarize point by point all the keys of the new law and we will answer the most frequent questions that are usually raised about it. If you want to be prepared for everything that comes, read on: it’s time to get to know the Animal Welfare Act in depth.

The key points of the law and what they mean for pet owners

These are the most important novelties introduced by the new Animal Welfare Law:

Tightening sanctions

  • The penalties for mistreating or abandoning an animal are hardened. The abandonment will be fined between € 500 and € 10,000, with the possibility that the penalty increases depending on the circumstances.
  • “Serious” abuse will be punishable by a fine of between € 10,001 and € 50,000 and “very serious”, between € 50,0001 and € 200,000.

Sterilization, vaccination and euthanasia of pets

  • It will be mandatory to vaccinate all pets to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • It will be mandatory to sterilize all pets.
  • It is forbidden to euthanize pets except in specific cases where it is justified, always at the discretion of a veterinarian (for example, if the animal suffers from a disease).

Limits on how long animals can be alone

  • Dogs may not be home alone for more than 24 hours.
  • Cats, hamsters and birds will not be able to be alone at home for more than 72 hours.
  • You can not leave an animal alone in the car.
  • Animals will not be able to live in isolated areas of the house such as terraces, patios or basements.

Animals prohibited as pets

  • A positive list of animals that can be kept as pets will be created (there is no definitive list yet).
  • It is foreseeable that the possession of all those exotic animals and pets that are considered difficult to care for or maintain in dignified conditions will be prohibited, and also animals that are dangerous, aggressive, poisonous, that transmit diseases or can become a plague.
  • People who live with an animal that is not allowed must apply for an authorization that will allow them to keep it until it dies.

Prohibited animal breeding, marketing and use

  • Dogs, cats and ferrets may not be displayed or sold in commercial establishments.
  • All animals for sale must be removed within a maximum period of 12 months.
  • Only birds, rodents and fish may be sold.
  • Only authorized breeders who register in the Register of Pet Breeders may breed animals.
  • Animals, neither domestic nor wild, may not be used in circuses, as an advertising claim or for begging.

Pet registration and insurance

  • A new animal identification system will be created that will operate in parallel with microchip identification. It is known as the ID of pets.
  • Cats will also need to be microchipped.
  • As for the colonies of cats and other “urban animals”, it is established that the municipalities must sterilize them, identify them by microchip and guarantee their safety and health.
  • Dog owners must take out specific liability insurance.

Courses for dog owners and evaluation of dangerous dogs

  • Both current dog owners and those who want to adopt one of these animals in the future must pass a specific course. No details are known about its content or evaluation criteria, but it is known that it will be free and that it can be done online or in veterinary clinics.
  • It is not clear what will happen if a person who already has a dog does not pass the course.
  • The category of Potentially Dangerous Dogs or PPP will disappear, since when adopted all dogs without exception will have to pass a test of sociability and obedience.
  • Dogs that fail it must be walked with a muzzle and short leash, but may retake the test after passing through the hands of a professional trainer.

Animals that are left out of the new law

As we said at the beginning, one of the most controversial points of the new law is that it leaves several groups of animals without protection.

The case of hunting dogs is the best known and has provoked the most debates, but it is not the only one: falconry birds, animals dedicated to bullfighting shows and working dogs (police and rescue dogs, therapy dogs and herding and livestock care dogs) are also excluded.

Animals used for laboratory experimentation will also be excluded from the Animal Welfare Law, which are only said to be handled “with non-aggressive or violent methods that may cause suffering or anxiety.”

Minister Ione Belarra has assured that they will continue working to extend the protection of the law to more animals, and specifically to hunting and working dogs, but for the moment the latter are located in a different category.

Entry into force of the Animal Welfare Act

There is still no definitive date for the entry into force of the Animal Welfare Act.

The next step will be its debate and possible approval in the Senate, as we have commented, after which it will be published in the BOE. It is foreseeable that all this will happen in the coming months.

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By Lee Chun Hei