Animal Abuse in Spain

What is the legal situation of animals in Spain?

There are 17 regional animal protection laws in Spain, all of them are different. This means most of the animals are protected depending on where the events take place. This is an inequality that leaves many animals defenseless. All those previous Laws give to the animals only administrative protection.

Recently, there was a modification of the Spanish criminal Code including animal abuse as a crime. So, Article 337 of the current Penal Code dictates prison sentences for animal abuse from 3 months to one year and if the animal has died from 6 to 18 months, in both cases this means disqualification from exercising a profession, trade or trade related to animals and for their possession.

What is the history of the law?

Since the beginning the courts have been hesitant to grant legal protection for animals. The law sees animals as goods, susceptible to ownership or possession, this is the reason why the courts sometimes provide solutions that are often too rigid. It is more difficult to find court decisions that agree to the care of the pet for alternative periods within a family process. This means, it was necessary to reform on the legal regime of animals, so that a change of mentality in legal operators would be definitively produced, and so that in the decisions adopted by the courts in situations of family crisis, animal welfare prevails and the bonds of mutual affectivity between people and their pets is preserved.

What is the status of the law at this moment?

There is a new law in Spain regarding animal rights. This new law now recognizes animals as sentient beings, or living beings, with sensitivity, that cannot be treated as inert things simply because, as science has amply shown, they are not inert. It is estimated that each year around 60,000 animals are mistreated and that around 200,000 dogs and cats are abandoned each year by their owners. This makes Spain the head of the European Union with this situation. Because of that, the Spanish administrative legislation considers this behaviour as a serious offence. Even when many criminal proceedings have been initiated, only in some cases there was a ruling for prison times. Almost always there will be a fine imposed.

What do we understand under animal abuse Law?

animal abuse lawyer

Animal abuse can be extremely cruel and sadistic. It is not uncommon to find cases of animal abuse in livestock farms, where calves, cows, and sheep appear in a state of abandonment and in terrible health and hygienic-sanitary conditions, and some of them are eaten by other animals. Usually, animal abuse is connected to other criminal figures (illegal weapons, pyromania, drugs, destruction of property, among others). Besides, violence against animals in the family increases the chances that other forms of violence will occur, as well as that minors present before such acts may be at risk of suffering physical abuse or sexual abuse. Also, a high percentage of battered women take time to make the decision to leave their abuser for fear about what will happen to the animal.

What are the characteristics of animal abuse crime?

The crime of animal abuse is a common crime, that can be done by anyone, (it is not necessary that the abuser be the owner or possessor of the animal), of material result (death or injury that causes a serious impairment to health in the animal), in which the commission by omission is admitted: as a serious lack of attention and care, malnutrition, and absolute lack of health and hygiene. It is a crime of harmful result: death or production of physical injuries

What are the penalties for animal abuse?

Basic type: (Art 337.1):

Prison time of 3 months and one day to 1 year of deprivation of liberty. (Before, from three months to a year). Special disqualification from 1 year and one day to 3 years for: Exercise of profession, trade or trade that is related to animals and animal ownership.

Aggravating circumstances of the basic type: 

Prison of 9 months to 1 year of deprivation of liberty. The criminal uses of weapons, instruments, objects, means, methods or forms specifically dangerous for the life of the animal. Also cruelty Loss or uselessness in a sense, organ or main member of the animal in the presence of a minor.

Qualified subtype:

Prison time from 6 to 18 months and special disqualification from 2 to 4 years for the exercise of a profession, trade or trade that is related to animals and for the possession of animals.This finishes in the effective death of the animal.

Attenuated subtype: 

Fine from 1 to 6 months and special disqualification from 3 months to 1 year. Collects the same content as the lack of animal abuse in article 632, now an attenuated subtype, for cases in which the events take place in cases that fall outside the previous sections.

There are not a lot of court rulings due to the recent change in the Spanish Regulation including animal abuse as a crime. Nevertheless, we can confirm that these types of crimes increase every year in the court.

Piñera del Olmo

 Aribau 114, entlo 2a
 08036 Barcelona

 Phone: +34 93 514 39 97

 Fax: +34 93 127 07 66