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New Bill in Spain Will Change Animals’ Legal Standing From Property to Sentient Beings

Image via iStock/MarioGuti

Under the Spanish Civil Code, animals are currently classified as movable property. This means that in cases of defaulted payments, debt collectors can seize pets along with other assets when collecting payments.

However, attitudes towards animal welfare have shifted, and lawmakers are working to have this reflected in the current legislation. El País reports that, “Spanish Congress on Wednesday began working on the final version of a bill that aims to change animals’ legal status from mere objects to sentient beings.”

The new bill will address the legal standing of animals in situations where their owners split up, as well as in mortgage and civil procedure legislation. These changes will help protect animals from seizure and also ensure that their best interests are kept in mind during custody disputes.

El País explains, “The amendments are the result of conversations with animal associations and other groups that pointed out shortcomings in the original text. One of the amendments adds a pet owner’s right to moral damages on top of existing civil responsibility when the animal is injured by a third party.”

While many are excited about the more animal welfare-minded legislative changes, some animal welfare organizations don’t think it goes far enough. The bill will not address bullfighting, which has been a very controversial topic in the country.

Sara Carreño, a lawmaker for Unidos Podemos, explains to El País that while her group had wanted a more ambitious bill, the Popular Party (PP) does not want bullfighting to be affected. The PP’s main goal is to achieve maximum consensus, so they do not want to include a polarizing issue.

While the scope and particularities of animal welfare issues covered in this bill are still being ironed out, one thing is for sure: the attitudes toward animal welfare issues in Spain are evolving, and the resulting legislation is going to help pets and animals alike.

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