A CONTROVERSIAL new animal rights law has passed the Spanish parliament, but with an important exception: it will not cover hunting dogs or other animals used for traditional activities in the countryside 

The bill, which was approved by lawmakers in the Congress of Deputies on Thursday, will see changes to the way that animals are treated in captivity, ban sales of pets in Spanish stores and impose prison sentences for animal abusers, according to news agency Reuters. 

Zoos in Spain will also become recovery centres for wildlife under the new legislation, which will still have to be approved by the Senate.

The content of the bill had, for several weeks, been subject to intense debate between the parties that make up the coalition government: the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos. 

It was the latter party that was insisting hunting dogs be included in the scope of the bill, but at the last minute the leftist group relented in order to get the bill passed. 

‘To leave hunting dogs out of this law is to leave abusers unpunished,’ said Social Rights Minister and Unidas Podemos leader Ione Belarra in Congress during the debate. She also called for forgiveness from those who had been campaigning to include the animals in the bill.

Critics of the government claim that the administration of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has bowed to the demands of the country’s hunting industry, which is worth an estimated €5 billion a year, according to Reuters, and has a powerful lobby. 

Despite the disagreement between the members of the coalition, the Socialists hailed the law as an ‘historic advance’, and claimed it would protect all animals from abuse despite the exclusion of hunting animals. 

The Barcelona-based Affinity Foundation claims that some 167,000 dogs were abandoned in Spain in 2021, Reuters reported.

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