Animals should be fine. There is actually agreement on this. Nevertheless, few topics are discussed as controversially as animal welfare: Hardly any other draft in Spain has undergone as many changes on its way through parliament as the "Law of Protection, Rights and Welfare of Animals". On Thursday, it was finally adopted after a fierce dispute in the left-wing minority government. It will not enter into force until September, as there are still many details to be regulated. Owners of hamsters and dog owners are insecure.

Hans-Christian Rößler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb, based in Madrid.

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No one is really happy with the law that "obliges all human beings to treat animals as sentient beings." It is intended to ensure their dignity, prevent their abandonment and punish ill-treatment. The Minister of Social Rights, Ione Belarra, who drafted the draft, is proud that animals now have their own rights. But the politician from the left-wing alternative Podemos party is angry with the PSOE party of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez because the coalition partner has "caved in" to the "hunting lobby".

More and more exceptions

The Socialists fear the upcoming regional, local and parliamentary elections not only from hunters, but also from bullfighting supporters. There have already been demonstrations. Especially in rural areas, there is growing concern that the new law is only a first step towards banning hunting altogether. The right-wing populist Vox party is attracting voters who do not want to let the left take away bullfighting.

In the end, the catalogue of animals exempt from the new law became longer and longer: they apply to hunting, sniffer and shepherd dogs, as well as fighting bulls. In addition, there are exceptions for production and laboratory animals (including mink farms) and animals living in the wild. In the end, homeless people were given the right to own a dog.

The Senate also softened the planned regulations for dog owners. Instead of a dog driver's license, only a free online course "Responsible Pet Ownership" is to be completed, the details of which still have to be regulated, as the newspaper "El Mundo" reports. For dogs, therefore, the test for the "evaluation of their suitability for social behavior" is omitted.

All-clear for hamster owners

A hamster ban will probably not come about either. However, the positive list of which wild animals can be kept as pets has not yet been completed. Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs allegedly remain allowed and can still be sold in pet shops – but not tortoises, parrots and most reptiles, which are subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Pet stores already fear ruin. They are also prohibited from selling dogs, cats and ferrets. If you want to keep them, you have to adopt them or buy them from a breeder registered in the official register. All cats must also be sterilized before reaching the age of six months. Exceptions apply only to cats of officially recognized pet breeders.

According to "El Mundo", all animals that are on the positive list are officially registered: the larger ones with a microchip, birds with a ring. The death of a hamster or canary must be reported. The deregistration of the deceased pets must be accompanied by an identification number and a document according to which an officially recognised company has cremated or buried them.

The opposition criticises that the new law regulates animal husbandry too much and makes it far too bureaucratic. It will be very difficult to comply correctly with the countless new regulations. For those who do not comply with them, it will be expensive: The penalties range from a fine of 500 euros to 200,000 euros for serious violations.