Pets yes and hunting dogs no? A PSOE amendment wants to lower the animal welfare law

There is no agreement in the Government on the powers that the Animal Welfare Law should have, approved in august in the second round by the Council of Ministers and which is currently in Congress. The Ministry of Social Rights, with Ione Belarra at the helm, has spent months working on a text with the aim of applying it to almost all animals. However, the PSOE advocates that this rule regulate "exclusively" the activity of pets "that are kept in the family home and live there with their owners."

“It draws our attention that a law that has passed through the filter of the Council of Ministers, which we understand to be a government norm, in reality, seems to only be proposed by part of the Executive. It is a bit shocking and paradoxical that it is the majority shareholder who presents such an important amendment”, explains José Miguel Doval, president of the Royal Canine Society.

The socialist parliamentary group has registered this Tuesday in Congress four amendments to the law. In this way, the PSOE intends to modify the category of animals that would be protected by the norm. The text, which has generated tension between the government partners, is committed to including one more section among the subjects that are excluded from the law.

Therefore, the socialists claim that this rule does not apply to those "animals used in specific activities (sports recognized by the Higher Sports Council, falconry birds, sheepdogs and livestock guards), as well as used in professional activities (dedicated to a specific activity or task carried out jointly with its manager in a professional or work environment, such as rescue dogs, pets used in assisted interventions or animals of the Security Forces and Bodies or of the Armed forces)". Even so, “what is established in article 24 regarding general obligations and article 27 regarding prohibitions will apply to them,” collects the text registered in Congress.

In addition, they propose that "hunting dogs, rehalas and auxiliary hunting animals be excluded, which will have their own legislation as established in the National Game Management Strategy," indicates the amendment, which includes a claim of the Royal Hunting Federation. To justify this decision, the PSOE maintains that animals that are not companions already "find their legal accommodation" in Law 32/2007 for the care of animals, in their exploitation, transport, experimentation and slaughter.

At the same time, they defend that the current wording of the bill "would introduce a distortion factor when it is applied by the autonomous communities" because, for the PSOE, the regional governments are the ones that have powers "exclusively in matters of Animal Protection".

In the United We Can coalition, this proposal has not been well received. "It seems incomprehensible to us because it leaves thousands of animals unprotected and represents a serious setback in the defense of their well-being," says Lilith Verstrynge, Secretary of the Podemos Organization and Secretary of State for the 2030 Agenda, regarding the socialist amendment. "We are sure that the PSOE is not in favor of heartless people hanging greyhounds from trees or burying puppies in quicklime, and we trust that it will rectify it," she adds, in a written reply addressed to this newsroom.

Animal groups are also critical of the PSOE's decision. “The rights must be common for all animals and if something needs to be specified or qualified in the regulations, because obviously a dog that lives in a house or an apartment is not the same as a shepherd dog, it will have to be included in the law; but creating a new regulation seems like a mistake to us and it doesn't make much sense”, says Luis Suárez, WWF's conservation coordinator.

For her part, Aïda Gascón, director of the organization AnimaNaturalis, maintains that the socialist proposal "is going to leave hunting dogs helpless." According to her account, animal shelters "are the most affected by hunting waste." And she details three scenarios that are usually produced with animals from the hunting sector. The first is in which “it is the hunters themselves” who “approach the protector and leave the animal there when they don't want it”. "It's illegal, but the protectors don't file complaints because they know that fate could be worse, that they abandon him or hang him from a tree," says Gascón.

“In other cases, dogs are rescued from the street. It is unknown how many days they have been running around, end up malnourished or have suffered an accident. The protectors have to take charge of the operations or of some illness”, adds the director of AnimaNaturalis. Finally, the last case that she details is those hunting dogs “that are rescued from shillings and are in bad situations”. “We find dogs that are starving, full of parasites and that eat their own feces because they don't have food,” Gascón concludes.

The president of the Hunting Federation, Manuel Gallardo, denies these accusations against his sector and assures that “this mantra has been repeatedly dismantled”. “We always work so that all the animals that participate in the activity [cinegética] They are perfectly cared for,” he stresses. His organization has charged against the animal welfare law because "many of its articles do not favor" hunting.

In an argument prepared by the federation, they maintain that “it is impossible to comply with” measures of the law such as article 25 that prohibits the mistreatment or physical aggression of pet and wild animals in captivity. The national lobby of the hunting sector assures that its interpretation is "absolutely subjective" in relation to "avoiding damage or causing suffering" if hunting dogs are included in the standard.

Along the same lines, among the 30 objections raised to the bill, they point out that the obligation to keep animals "integrated into the family nucleus, whenever possible due to their species, in good health and hygiene" causes the disappearance of "kennels where many hunters keep their dogs". They also criticize the prohibition of "carrying animals tied to moving motor vehicles" because it would prohibit "the training of greyhounds"

The objective of the law is to achieve "zero sacrifice, zero abandonment and zero abuse", as explained in August in an interview with elDiario.es Sergio G. Torres, general director of Animal Rights and promoter of the text. With the bill that has reached Congress, and is currently being debated in Parliament, Social Rights is committed to prohibiting uncontrolled breeding.

“Many of these pups are abandoned and, in the best of cases, end up in animal protection centers, where they end up accumulating and need to go out for adoption. We are talking about the fact that around 300,000 animals a year can be abandoned and many of them come from uncontrolled breeding”, explained Torres in August to this newsroom.

In relation to this matter, the proposal of the Ministry of Ione Belarra advocates that the reproduction of animals can only be carried out by "registered breeders, with veterinary supervision mechanisms, to ensure that it is carried out in a responsible and moderate manner." In addition, "the sale or adoption of pet animals is regulated, establishing only the possibility of being carried out by breeding professionals, specialized and authorized stores or animal protection centers", points to the bill, which also "provides for the free transfer" of these creatures. In these cases, this transfer must be reflected “in a contract between the parties”.

The Spanish Hunting Federation regrets that, if this text goes ahead, only "those people registered in the register of company breeders will be able to breed". "Breeding for replacement is prohibited, as occurs in most cases of hunting activity," they point out in a document in which they collect their objections to the text.

In the same way, position the Leonese pastor Edilberto Rodríguez. According to him, the ranchers organize among themselves to breed new dogs that help them take care of the herd. "The [pastor] who has a good dog, offers him [perros] to another [compañero]. There is no trade, no story. We are dedicated to cattle. I give the dog to anyone, I have never sold a dog, ”he adds. Bearing this in mind, he explains that if animal husbandry is regulated as he now stipulates, the bill will not be able to "offer a dog in this way."

Another novelty included in the bill that has reached Congress is the imposition of a training course for owners. This training will be mandatory for all those who have pets. "They will be free and mostly online," Torres explained to elDiario.es. And he added: “It consists of acquiring a series of knowledge to know what it means to have an animal in your family and how long it will be with you. How long does it take to care? What expenses does having an animal imply?

Social Rights considers that these courses can contribute to "avoiding that high percentage of dropouts that also has to do with the poor fit that animals often have within family environments because some people may previously have been unaware of the degree of commitment that having a animal,” explained Torres.

This law also contemplates the repeal of the law that regulates the possession of potentially dangerous animals, among which are the pitbull or rottweiler dog breeds. If the text that has reached Congress enters into force, this denomination will be replaced by a "regulation that will establish a mechanism for individual validation of animals." "What we are going to do is establish individual validation systems so that, regardless of the breed of the dog, it can be validated that it does not pose a public safety problem," said the general director. In addition, the term 'potentially hazardous' will be changed to 'special handling'.

Among the main lines of the law, the prohibition of circuses with wild animals and the conversion of zoos and dolphinariums into recovery centers for native species are contemplated. Also, if finally this text goes aheadanimals may not be used in "activities and shows in which they may suffer harm or death, such as cockfights or pigeon shooting," explained Social Rights when the text was approved in the second round in the Council of Ministers in August .

Bullfighting shows have been left out of the law, although Torres acknowledged in August that he would have liked the Animal Welfare Law to also include this matter. It could not be for two reasons: because bullfighting does not depend on Social Rights and because "there is no consensus in the Government to be able to advance" on this issue.

It is also advocated for the "toughening of the penalties for mistreatment through the reform of the Penal Code”. In this way, "for cases of mistreatment resulting in death, the prison sentence will be toughened up to 24 months and up to 36 in the event that more than one aggravating circumstance occurs." This modification of the penalties includes crimes that affect "vertebrate animals", such as wild boars, "whose mistreatment did not entail criminal reproach until now".

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