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Animals are sentient beings in Spain

As of Wednesday, January 5, animals are considered sentient beings by Spanish law. The new law applies to all animals. What does this mean in practice for bulls intended for bullfighting and hunting dogs such as galgos and podencos?

Wezens met gevoel

Galgo

In December 2021, the Spanish Congress of Deputies approved the law that considers animals as sentient beings. Thanks to this reform, animals can be better protected from mistreatment and neglect. Animals will no longer be seen as objects, giving them a different legal status from material possessions. The law puts an end to the confiscation of animals, the mortgaging of them, the use of animals as collateral and the separation of animals from their caretakers in cases related to property rights, such as divorces and separations. It also prohibits mistreatment and neglect of animals in these specific situations.

Sensitivity & rights

This new law amends the Civil Code (Código Civil), the Code of Civil Procedure and the Mortgage Act. It states that animals are sentient beings, “living beings endowed with sensitivity”, with rights and interests that must be taken into account. This is an adjustment that the European Union is asking all its member states to make through Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty. In addition, Spanish society has been calling for years for better protection of animals through the legislation. The new law applies to all animals: domestic animals, wild animals, animals in intensive livestock farming, and therefore also fighting bulls, galgos, podencos and other hunting dogs.

The practice

However, the new law only directly affects fighting bulls and hunting dogs in property issues. In practice, this means that they will no longer be confiscated or can be used as collateral. But the law does not prohibit bullfighting or hunting itself. However, the law does provide a new legal framework that in the long run creates opportunities for developing new legislation.

Bullfighting is currently considered as cultural heritage and is constitutionally protected from abolition. In addition, the Spanish government is hiding behind the Lisbon Treaty, which makes an exception for animal protection in cultural traditions, such as bullfighting. For hunting with dogs there is uncertainty: in Spain this can be considered a centuries-old tradition; from the European Union there are noises that it should not fall under cultural traditions. The last word has not yet been said on this, that is for sure.

© Tras los Muros

New Animal Welfare Law Spain

It is very nice that animals are now seen as sentient beings. But this is certainly not the only development in the southern European country when it comes to animal welfare. A few months ago, a proposal for a new animal welfare law was presented. Although this law does not protect fighting bulls, it offers opportunities for hunting dogs. Every year, more than 50,000 galgos, podencos and other hunting dogs are neglected and dumped by hunters. According to Sergio García Torres, director of the Directorate General for Animal Rights, uncontrolled dog breeding is at the root of the high numbers of dumped dogs. The new law prohibits dog breeding by private individuals. Only professionals who follow animal welfare guidelines may still breed dogs. In addition, a new, national registration system must slow down the dumping of animals. There will also be new standards for the size and facilities of rooms housing more than five dogs.

Currently, the new Animal Welfare Law in Spain is blocked by the Ministry of Agriculture. The hunting industry is not satisfied with the measures that apply to hunting dogs.

From CAS, we have been using our contacts within the European Union in an attempt to get the blockade lifted. In addition, as part of our Save the Galgos campaign, it is possible to send a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture. The letter of text is in Spanish. Click here to send the letter.

Campaign Save the Galgos

In October, CAS and the Spanish organization AnimaNaturalis launched the Save the Galgos campaign. We joined forces to draw attention to the galgo problem and to realize a better protection of the dogs. Since October, we have visited various regions, such as Madrid, Valencia, Catalonia. Andalusia and Aragon, where we have been educating the media and elected representatives about the need to improve the existing regulations and create new laws. After our visit in Andalusia, Senator Carles Mulet asked questions to the Spanish government about the situation of the galgos in the country. Among other things, he asked what actions are being taken to protect these hunting dogs from mistreatment.

Petition

Furthermore, we are collecting signatures with a petition that we will use as support in our lobbying activities. We want the new, national animal welfare law to protect hunting dogs. Sign our petition: savethegalgos.org

Read the story of Menta, a galgo that was maltreated and dumped by hunters in Spain.

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