On February 9th, the Spanish Congress approved two legislative reforms that will result in significant setbacks for the protection for animals. These reforms include amendments to the Criminal Code regarding animal abuse and the approval of a framework law that regulates animal protection across the country.
Legal experts in this area have come together to warn that these legislative changes represent a major blow to the protection of animals in Spain, with significant setbacks that will not be easy to reverse.
The approved amendments to the Criminal Code will signify that certain cruel acts towards animals that have been penalized in Spain since 2015 will now cease to be a crime or could be punished with a mere fine. ‘In practice, more aggressors will go unpunished or receive only trivial penalties’, warn several groups of law professionals.
Fines instead of prison sentences and other setbacks: the country is thrust backwards in its response to animal abuse
On the one hand, the lower Chamber of the Spanish Parliament voted to approve that animal abuse could be punished with a fine instead of jail sentence. The reformed Criminal Code introduces the option that grievous acts of animal cruelty, even torture, could be punished with just an economic sanction. This possibility, which did not exist until now, represents a serious retrogression and a decline in the response of the Spanish state against animal abuse. The legislative reform approved yesterday in Congress also represents a break with the trend of other laws on animal abuse in Europe where fines are generally included as an additional sanction, but not as an alternative. ‘This will very negatively affect the deterrent effect of penalties, as well as the work in defense of animals before the courts’, alert groups of legal operators.
On the other, the approved modification has decriminalized the sexual exploitation of animals, which has been categorized as a crime in the Spanish Penal Code since 2015. Acts of animal sexual abuse, participation in zoopornography and other harmful and dangerous behaviors, will now go unpunished.
The Congress has also ignored repeated requests from lawyers and legal experts that have demanded Penal Code amendments that are essential to protect animals. Animal theft, threatening to kill a pet… may no longer be treated as crimes in Spain.
A disastrous precedent: Hunting and working dogs, left out from the Spanish animal protection law
In addition, during the same plenary session, the Spanish Congress has voted to approve a nation-wide animal protection law that expressly excludes dogs and other animals used for hunting and other practices (such as sports, police work and army activities, shepherding, and animal assisted therapies, among others). This is the first time that an animal protection law in Spain specifically leaves out these animals, although these are precisely the ones that need the most protection and control from the public authorities. Said exclusion is a disastrous precedent, which will encourage that these animals begin to be systematically and specifically excluded from regional animal protection laws across the country.
Thus, while other European countries have been embracing legislative changes that increase the protection of animals, Spain is now in the spotlight for being on the brink of passing new legislation that facilitates animal abuse and dismantles many significant advances made over the last two decades.
Both projects will now need to be debated and voted by the Spanish Senate at its plenary session, which will be held on March 8.
INTERcids legal operators for animals, an association formed by judges, prosecutors, lawyers and law enforcement agents that is specialized in animal protection legislation and public policy, as well as several associations of Animal Law lawyers across Spain, including AVADA, DAP, ABADA, DAMAC juristas, PROTA, AADA, Red CABAMA and AGMADA have jointly expressed their disappointment with these setbacks approved by Congress. Together, these groups that represent over 250 specialized professionals, have called on the Spanish Senate to rectify the current texts of these legislative projects so as to avoid a return to Spain’s former status as a nation state that is lenient towards animal abuse.
INTERcids warns of a serious risk of overturning legal protections for dogs in Spain – intercids.org