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Dog Laws in Spain and why there is confusion

Some of you may remember I wrote my first articles in response to complaints that the Spanish Government and Local authorities would do nothing to implement the Dangerous Dog Laws. My belief is that all dog owners should be aware of their responsibilities involved not just of certain breeds but all breeds. All are capable of relative dangerous aggression and every dog is a loaded gun whether it is a little “Derringer” to a “Magnum .45”. The only difference is the amount of damage each can inflict.

Because the law is uncertain along with a lack of understanding of how dogs think the EU returned autonomy of all aggression laws back to individual states. Most Germans think their county has the most Draconian of all dog laws that currently exist. Had the EU passed the law they actually wanted imposed throughout the EU then this would have decimated dog ownership to only those dogs weighing less than 20 kilograms. I know many people who would be happy at the introduction of such a law and some who would like dogs banned altogether. Yet, we also have very many people who like owning dogs even though or because they are potentially dangerous.

For the moment and until the EU constitution comes into force, if it ever does, then expect the EU to once again to take over the control of the law and the implantation into every member state. This could well be a good thing from the point of view of standardisation and people would know where they stand anywhere within the EU.

From my working with the European Union formulating new Dog Aggression Laws plus my interest in roaming dogs, particularly those in Romania I know that dog laws are very difficult to legally construct let alone enforce. Worse is the wording of such laws that often makes them inoperable and confusing. We now know that banning the “breed” rather than the “deed” has failed to reduce the incidents of aggression so it has to be back to square one and start again.

Would it not be simpler if throughout the EU we all had the same dog laws to govern general control, i.e., obedience, noise, aggression, and restrictions for regards the fouling of public areas? Is that not what we all want?

Some weeks ago, I wrote about Ropi the Shepherd/Mastiff cross that had a number of attempts of re-homing. It seems at last he may have found a home with Mike from the Aliaga Clinic. Before this Ropi went to one family but he still has an attachment to me, so he kept escaping looking for my car. The Police found him roaming; they arrested him and took him for a short stay at the Calpe shelter where they checked his microchip to trace him back to the Aliaga Clinic.

Hooray for the microchips identification of pets and why it so important your pet has one. ? Your vet will see to this safely and painlessly for you. For those who do not microchip their dogs they are in danger of having to pay a very large fine to your local Council.

The law regarding fouling our streets is simple enough but again there is little interest in issuing any penalty. I would agree with this, as many times it is an accident as no one normally sets out to walk with their dog intentionally to foul the streets. Here it is just better that more bins and bags are available for people to clean up any doggy mistakes.

The Laws appertaining to fouling and microchips are easy to understand but as far as the Aggression Laws are concerned, anyone who looks around the streets sees supposedly regulated dangerous dogs still walking about without muzzles and often off the lead. Even if they bite someone, the authorities do little or at least if they do something it may only be to put them on the register of dangerous dogs even if they keep one.

The basic three-section format of the Dangerous dogs act sees most member states adopting this throughout the current EU as well as those countries that will join in later years. This basis follows a belief that it forms a skeleton that any country can use with appropriate amendments. This method does not work.

What we see here in Spain is first Section (a) named breeds being restricted in public areas. Section (b) any dog that looks like any dog from (a) and weighs over 25 kilograms. Then we have section (c) that is any dog with a history of aggression towards people or animals. Such an interpretation seems to say that most dogs are dangerous. I would agree but how many of these classified dogs do we actually see wearing muzzles and allowed off the lead?

The further problem is there are 17 different Comunidades with different interpretations of the law and only some show any interest in implementing such a law. I have so many people complain to me that their local authority will do nothing even after issuing a Denuncia.

One additional aspect of law highlighted the other week in this paper was the foreigner who had parked his car illegally. A Benidorm policeman tried to issue a fine but the owners defensive reply was why him when all the other cars in the street were also illegally parked. The policeman arrested him but the court upheld the foreigner’s defence that such action of arrest was illegal and therefore supported the rule that people must see a law enforced fairly.

If everyone sees people openly breaking the law and the police on the majority of occasions are doing nothing then the law is bad law. Such laws are then in urgent need of changing. Such bad law is though still often used but it may well fail in prosecution if the defendant can and does apply this important criteria otherwise it would seem like victimisation and a breach of human rights. Such bad convictions as these can only help fuel the confusion and create anger at the unfairness.

I think one of the enjoyable things about living in Spain is the laid back attitude to all sorts of law breaking that other EU states would never tolerate. Take parking as an example. We have to look at laws and check if any law is dangerous if ignored. Comparing illegal parking, to drunk or fast driving then we would hope the police would spend more time on the more dangerous infractions.

This brings us back to dog laws. Of all the laws, the Dangerous Dog Act needs implementing in a way that seems fair to all peoples. Everyone must easily understand it; currently we cannot. We find many non-aggressive dogs issued with restrictions whilst many other dogs regularly show aggression and are a worry to people. Most authorities appear to show little interest in doing anything about this. It comes back to this question is it because the law is bad law, incapable of enforcement that makes it unworkable?

If there is clarity in the law then why after very many months have I been unable to find a lawyer who would write articles for us about Your Dogs and the Law in Spain? Not one lawyer I have approached would even offer any advice and yet if anywhere there is a need for understanding of the Dog laws it is here in Spain. Lawyers need to fight cases on presidents so on a relatively new law there may be very few available. If the law is also confusing to lawyers, maybe this is why they cannot offer advice on unknown outcomes of dog problem cases.

For me looking at the law interpreted in one area it appears to consider any dog over 25 kilos as a dangerous dog. This then would require the compulsory insurance, the ability test of the owner to control such a dog and the regulations of control needed when the dog is in public places. Add to this the need for the owner to show they have a clean police record from their country of origin.

You can only have these restrictions lifted if the dog owners are prepared to apply for an assessment conducted by an authorised and competent vet. The problem here is the assessment is all in Spanish.

As far as the Dog Aggression Law is with different areas having differing interpretation of the laws and whether they actually bother to implement them then anyone owning a dog here in any locality in Spain then the best policy is to always enquire at the town hall and ask what is their policy and how they implement this.

We all need clear dog laws that are there for public safety, peace and quiet along with environmental health protection. Any such laws will only work if the public want them to and demand that the authorities always take any action against anyone who does not wish to support the will of the majority of peoples. If most people do not understand the law and it appears so often un-enforceable then it is bad law and needs changing.

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