Animal Welfare Law: Everything you need to know

We tell you what your rights and obligations are under the new animal welfare law. Don’t miss out!



The new Animal Welfare Law, in force since September 29, 2023, was demanded by those who protect animals. Although autonomous communities have their own regulations, a national law that consolidates the main rights of animals was considered necessary.

The new regulation incorporates some measures already integrated into regional legislation but also introduces some interesting new ones too. Here are the most important ones.

What is considered a pet under the Animal Welfare Act?

A pet is a domestic or wild animal in captivity kept by humans, generally in the home. Its well-being must be ensured, and its ethological needs respected, and it cannot be intended for consumption or kept for a lucrative end.

However, when it comes to keeping animals for companionship, the new law only allows the keeping of dogs, cats, and ferrets; those defined in Law 8/2003, of 24 April, on Animal Health; wild species included in the permitted list of companion animals; those bred for productive purposes and registered as companion animals by their owner, and falconry birds and aquarium animals not listed in the catalogue of invasive exotic species or protected wild species. All this, pending the elaboration of a list of domestic companion species.

What does the Animal Welfare Law say about dogs?

The most notable changes are:

  • Responsible ownership course: Dog owners must take a free course to facilitate responsible ownership. Until the regulation determining the contents of the course is developed, it will not be mandatory.
  • Civil liability insurance: this will be mandatory, but as with the training course, the regulation is not yet finalised, so it is not yet legally required.
  • Dog supervision: the maximum period is 24 consecutive hours. It also prohibits leaving the dog tied and unattended at the entrance to shops or, importantly, locked in vehicles exposed to cold or heat.
  • Access to public transportation, public or private establishments, beaches, parks, and other public spaces: Entry for companion animals, especially dogs, must be facilitated, provided they do not pose a risk to people, other animals, and things, and respect the sanitary and safety conditions established by law.
  • Rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles: those who already have these animals will be able to keep them. If the future list of domestic species does not include them, new specimens will not be able to be acquired following the publication, but those that we already have at home, may stay.

Rights under the Animal Welfare Law

Animal rights refer to their right to good treatment, respect, and protection, given their nature as sentient beings. Their caregivers must:

  • Keep them in decent living conditions, which ensure their well-being, rights and healthy development.
  • Educate and handle the animal with methods that do not cause suffering or abuse or cause anxiety or fear.
  • Exercise proper vigilance over the animal and prevent it from escaping.
  • Never leave it alone inside closed vehicles, exposed to thermal or other conditions that may endanger its life.
  • Provide the animal with the necessary health care to ensure its health, taking it to a veterinarian, if necessary.
  • Keep the animal permanently located and identified.