Spain has passed a new animal welfare law that recognizes animals as sentient beings. According to the legislation, domestic animals and wild animals are no longer considered “things” by the state.
The Spanish Chamber of Deputies passed the new law. It won majority approval, with the exception of the country’s far-right Fox party, which opposed the legislation.
Animals will now have greater legal protections under the law. Although wild animals are included in the legislation, it largely protects domestic animals. In the event of divorce or separation, the general welfare of the animal must first be addressed before it is separated from its owners. The law also prohibits the abuse or abandonment of animals.
“It’s a step forward and says that in cases of separation and divorce, the arrangement that will be applied to animals will take into account not only the interests of humans, but also the interests of the animal,” explained Maria Gonzalez-Lacapix. Gonzalez is a member of Interkids, an animal welfare organization.
The law updates the Spanish Civil Code, Mortgage Law and the Code of Civil Procedure. It was first introduced in 2017. However, it didn’t appear before Congress until this year – and was passed to Spain’s Senate in September – due to political turmoil during the country’s 2019 general election.
Thank you and congratulations! The new Civil Code includes a large part of the proposals made by Interkids and will have practical consequences for citizens in everyday situations involving animals. https://t.co/Qk6h7F9G27 #feelings #civil law
– intercids (INTERcids) December 2, 2021
Animal welfare laws in Spain
Before the law was passed, a judge in Madrid granted joint custody of a dog to a couple going through the process of separation.
While this ruling was rare, the law would be a permanent step forward for pets like dogs and cats. In the event of a divorce, Guillermo Diaz, a legislator from Ciudadanos, explained that before the law was passed, “animals were not considered different from television.”
“Those who engage in violence against animals are likely to be violent against humans as well,” he added. “We are the only kind who acknowledge the suffering of others. As such, we have an obligation to prevent that suffering.”
But the new law does not address other cases of cruelty to animals, such as bullfighting. Bullfighting is by nature cruel to animals. It has already been banned in at least 100 cities in Spain, according to animal rights group PETA. But it is still legal in the country.
Spain joins a growing list of countries in recognizing animals as sentient beings. In November, the UK amended its Animal Welfare Bill to provide additional protection for cephalopods and decadal crustaceans, the sensitivity of which had not previously been recognized. In 2019, the Australian Capital Territory became the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animals as sentient beings. Other countries that pass similar laws include France, Brussels, and New Zealand.
About the author
Staff Clerk | Los Angeles, CA Audrey writes about sustainability, food, and entertainment. She holds a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science.