When the new Animal Welfare Law comes into force in Spain

The Animal Welfare Law has been one of the issues that has marked the political agenda in recent days. The Congress of Deputies approved last Thursday the law that has once again opened a gap between PSOE and Unidas Podemos on account of hunting dogs.

The law was approved with the votes in favor of PSOE, Unidas Podemos, En Comú Podem, Galicia en Común, ERC, EH Bildu and the CUP, while PP, Vox, Ciudadanos, PNV, PDeCat, Más País, Coalición Canaria, UPN , Forum and PRC voted against. Junts, BNG, Compromís and Teruel Existe abstained.

The law will now continue with its processing in the Senate where it will be submitted to debate in a paper, committee and plenary session. If it were decided to amend it or a veto was approved, the law would return to the Congress of Deputies to be debated again before its approval.


One of the keys to this Animal Welfare Law is to put an end to animal abuse and neglect. The penalties for these reasons will be tougher and would be between 500 and 10,000 euros in case of being 'mild', 10,000 and 50,000 euros in case of being 'serious' and between 50,000 and 200,000 euros in case of being considered 'very serious'.

The sacrifice of dogs and cats or those that have not managed to be adopted in the shelters will also be avoided and measures will be taken to identify the animals.

The norm also establishes the obligation to sterilize pets that live outside the interior of the houses; the creation of a list that establishes which animals can live with people and which cannot; the prohibition of selling dogs, cats and ferrets in pet stores; or the regulation of animal feed.


It has been the main point of confrontation within the Government regarding this law. The PSOE was against it and Unidas Podemos refused to support it if these animals were not taken into account within the text. Finally the purple formation announced its change of position, so these animals have been excluded.


How long can a dog be alone?

The norm approved in the Congress of Deputies emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the care of pets and raises fines of 500 to 10,000 euros if a dog runs away from home or up to 50,000 euros if its disappearance is not reported within 48 hours. 

In addition, the maximum time that we can leave dogs alone at home is limited and cannot exceed 24 hours. The regulations are more lax in the case of shepherd dogs that can be alone for more than 24 hours, as long as they have a locator to know their position and a shelter to sleep.

It will also be prohibited for these pets to sleep on balconies, terraces or basements, for example. Regarding sterilization, it will be mandatory to sterilize dogs if they have been adopted in a shelter. On the other hand, the maximum number of animals in a house will be five.

Cats and other animals

In the case of having a cat, things change. There is an obligation to sterilize these animals before they are six months old, in addition to the need to identify them with a microchip. In this case, the maximum period of stay alone at home is extended to 72 hours, as is the case with ornamental fish or caged animals. Fines for those who do not comply with the law can go up to 10,000 euros.

According to article 81 of the Law for the Protection, Rights and Welfare of Animals "the conducts that, by action or omission, lead to non-observance of the prohibitions and obligations established in this Law, will be considered minor infractions, provided they are not classified as serious or very serious.


Now, with the new law, the maximum penalties are doubled, so that the punishment for the death of an animal becomes 12 to 24 months in jail (or a fine of 18 to 24 months), and if aggravating factors come together, it could be extended up to 36 months (three years) in prison.

To this we must add that the regulations proposed by Ione Belarra extend the protection to all vertebrate animals, excluding only insects, arachnids, crustaceans and some marine animals.

An aspect "so broad" that, as already published in a report by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) in November, "it poses important problems to reconcile the protection of animals with the protection of other legal rights, such as health public or the environment.

This is the case, for example, of rats or snakes, vertebrate animals that can sneak into a privately owned garden or into a private home. "We are talking about public health issues. A rodent in a house can cause illness, or bite your child or your dog. Animals must be protected, but with reason," says Gema Calahorra, vice president of the School's Animal Welfare Section Lawyers of Zaragoza.

Penalties, sanctions and fines for killing an animal

"It is important to note that the Animal Protection Law imposes administrative sanctions. It is the Penal Code that determines whether these end up being prison sentences or fines," warns Calahorra. "Although killing a rat in a house does entail sanctions if the regulations are taken literally, common sense must be applied and keep in mind that ultimately it would be a court that would issue a sentence, if necessary", explain The lawyer.


With the new Animal Protection Law, those who adopt a dog in 2023 must complete a training course to preserve the integrity of the animals, responsible coexistence and the regulation of their possession. It is about learning what is the reality of having a dog in charge, to cover his needs and what the responsible coexistence consists of that accredits them as suitable people to have them.

This is established by the new Animal Protection Law that the Government of Spain approved on August 1, 2022 and whose objective is to protect dogs -and all animals, in general-. The regulation, designed by the Ministry of Social Rights and the 2030 Agenda, led by Ione Belarra, is currently in the parliamentary process.

One of the great novelties is that it is no longer enough for only owners of potentially dangerous dogs to obtain a psychotechnical test and take out compulsory insurance. In this way, the regulations are tightened with all the owners, who come to have more obligations, and grant new rights to the furry ones.

Although, at the moment, it is not known what this course will be like, nor its theme, everything indicates that it will be completely free and online, so it will not be very difficult to obtain it. In addition, the possibility of it being done in veterinary consultations is being considered, in which the same information will be offered. And it will end with a small test.
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