By Charlie Devereux
MADRID (Reuters) - A new law in Spain designed to curb the mistreatment and abandonment of animals came into force on Friday.
The law, approved last March, bans the sale of dogs, cats and ferrets in pet shops, prohibits the use of electronic or punitive dog collars and makes it obligatory to spay cats unless they have a breeding permit.
Hunting dogs and other working animals used in pursuits including bullfighting are excluded from the law, leading to the government coalition partners Podemos accusing the ruling Socialists of pandering to the powerful hunting lobby.
However, Podemos, which argued that hunting was the main source of abandonment of dogs, reluctantly backed the bill for fear of the entire law being shelved.
"It is a step of fundamental importance in the legislation of Spain," said Maria Luisa Fernandez, director of small animals at the Spanish Veterinary Association, who described the law as one of the most ambitious in Europe.
Still, Fernandez said the law appeared to have been rushed and said there were several "loose ends" that needed to be tied up, including wording on euthanasia that could prevent vets and owners from putting down sick pets if the possibility of palliative care exists.
Vets will now be obliged to offer treatments such as dialysis or to fit a pacemaker on pets as alternatives to euthanasia, measures that not all owners will be able to afford, she said.
"It would have been better to proceed more slowly and focus on reality such as in the case of euthanasia," Fernandez said.
More than 288,000 dogs and cats were abandoned in Spain in 2022, according to the Barcelona-based Affinity Foundation set up by a petcare company to promote the benefits of pets in society.
The law will oblige dog owners to take a course on how to look after their animals and for owners to have third-party insurance.
Those clauses will not come into force until Spain has a working government that can gazette specific details. Spain is currently run by a caretaker government following an inconclusive election in July.
(Reporting by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Aislinn Laing and Alison Williams)