In this file photo taken on April 24, 2021 animal rights activists hold posters reading "pain and cruelty" during a demonstration against Animal Experimentation on World Laboratory Animal Day in Malaga. (JORGE GUERRERO / AFP)
Spain outlaws cruelty to animals
At a glance
MADRID, Spain -- Spain's parliament on Thursday gave the green light to an animal welfare law, while also amending the penal code to bring in stiffer penalties for abuses.
"This is a very important day because parliament has passed the first animal rights law," since Spain returned to democracy following the 1975 death of dictator Francisco Franco, said Social Rights Minister Ione Belarra of the hard-left Podemos party.
The law ends "the impunity of animal abusers in an achievement that responds to the sensibilities of our fellow citizens," she said.
The legislation makes it obligatory for anyone adopting a dog to undergo "training" and imposes a ban on leaving a dog alone for more than 24 hours.
It also makes it obligatory for owners to sterilise cats in a bid to control births and avoid the abandonment or killing of unwanted litters.
Changes to the penal code also stiffen penalties for animal cruelty, ranging from 18 months in prison if the animal needs veterinary treatment or up to three years if the animal dies under "aggravating factors".
Until now, the toughest sentence was 18 months behind bars if an animal died.
The legislation mainly relates to pets and doesn't include animals raised for slaughter. Nor does it concern hunting dogs, sparking a rift within the government.
Although Podemos had wanted hunting dogs included, the Socialists of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez did not.
The legislation also tightens the law for animal breeders but has no bearing on bullfighting.
Just over a year ago, Spain passed a law recognising animals as "living, sentient beings" for the first time, and not mere objects, allowing for the shared custody of pets in divorce cases.
Similar legislation is already in place in several other European countries including Austria, France, Germany, Portugal and Switzerland.