From Wednesday, January 5, a raft of new measures came into force with the aim of improving the rights and wellbeing of animals in Spain.
Under the new draft legislation, animals including domestic cats and dogs will be legally recognised as ‘sentient beings’ and legitimate members of the family rather than objects.
As pets will be seen as family members, joint custody of the pet may also be considered in the event that a couple split up. In such cases, it would be down to family courts to consider the animal’s welfare and decide who gets to look after the pet which not only includes dogs and cats but also other animals such as birds, fish and reptiles.
The law will also aim to guarantee the animal’s rights and wellbeing in the event that the owner dies.
The new laws will see Spain join a number of other European nations including Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal in recognising animals as living, sentient creatures.
In addition, those who wish to adopt an animal will need to take a training course to prove that they are capable of looking after them.
The legislation which was drafted by the ruling PSOE party and coalition partners Unidas Podemos will aim to end the unnecessary abandonment and mistreatment of animals.
Further draft legislation which was proposed in October by Unidas Podemos will also aim to stop the practice of euthanising an animal without a legitimate reason, a ban on using wild animals in circuses and a ban on selling pets in stores.
Hundreds of animals end up in shelters every day in Spain and the new law will aim to prevent them from being needlessly put to sleep in the event that a new owner cannot be found.
The new draft protection law from Unidas Podemos will be assessed by the Cabinet over the coming weeks and will then make its way to the lower house and Congress of Deputies for approval at some point in 2022.
Planned reforms of the Criminal Code will also mean harsher punishment for abuse to animals with the aim of improving the relationships Spaniards have with their pets and other animals.
In addition, pet owners will need to register their sentient friends in a central database and obtain an animal DNI number much like those which are required for all Spanish citizens.
Their inclusion in the national registry will be mandatory and will help to protect their identity and rights under the new laws.
The measure was approved by the Congress of Deputies on December 2 and will modify three pieces of legislation including Spain’s Civil Code, the Mortgage Law and the Civil Procedure Law.
The national identity document for pets will have a number of uses including making sure that an animal can be quickly and easily be reunited with its owner. The document also serves to bring to justice anyone found to be abusing an animal.
Although any specific information is yet to be released, it is believed that the implementation and monitoring of the ID will be down to each autonomous community.
ID documents will most likely be in digital format, similar to Covid-19 certificates which incorporate a QR code so that the authorities will instantly be able to obtain the relevant information for any pet and its owner.
There is currently no information available as to the fines that may be levied on those who do not register their pets.