Local lawyers lead national campaign to bring in harsher sentences for animal cruelty in Spain

The recent trial of the president of Parque Animal.
The recent trial of the president of Parque Animal. / SUR
  • The Malaga lawyers association and a green prosecutor want a clause added to the criminal code for cases such as that of Torremolinos’s Parque Animal

The Malaga Colegio de Abogados - the official association of local lawyers - and environmental prosecutor, Fernando Benítez, are trying to change the law so that judges are able to impose harsher sentences in particularly serious cases of ill-treatment of animals, such as the recent one involving the Parque Animal association in Torremolinos.

The president of that association was recently given a prison sentence of three years and nine months, but only one of those years was actually for continued cruelty to domestic animals (under the previous criminal code before it was reformed). The remainder of the sentence was for falsifying documents.

The proposal has already been presented to Avelino Barrionuevo, a Partido Popular MP for Malaga and member of the parliamentary justice committee, and Joaquín Ramírez, also PP, who represents Malaga on Spain’s Senado and sits on the corresponding committee. They have agreed to start the process of trying to have the change enshrined into law.

Lawyer Rosario Monter, the coordinator of the animal-wellbeing section of the Colegio de Abogados and president of the Tidus animal welfare federation, is involved in this project. She says they are asking for the Spanish penal code to include a new aggravated subtype in article 337. This would apply in cases of continued ill-treatment of animals, those with a large number of victims and for entities which are supposed to protect animals. In all these cases, the prosecution would be able to ask for a longer prison sentence than the present 18 months, which only applies to cases of cruelty resulting in an animal’s death. The maximum sentence which would apply after the modification has yet to be determined.

“Cases such as that of the Torremolinos animal association are not isolated. They have happened elsewhere and people want severer penalties to be applied. There is a greater sensitivity towards animals nowadays,” said Rosario. Malaga’s Colegio de Abogados plans to hold meetings with other lawyers associations in Spain and with animal welfare societies, to enlist them in the cause. “Supporters of animals have to be more united than ever to make this proposal become reality and pass the necessary legal and parliamentary processes. It means that our criminal code will show that the justice system is, in the end, fair,” she said.

Complicated change

Rosario wanted to dedicate this work to Tidus, the dog from which the federation took its name, that was burned alive in Valencia in December 2012. “I will never forget him, because his ill-treatment showed in his eyes and shows in the eyes of many others, and that has to change,” she added.

Ramírez said the proposal is interesting, but the process will be complicated because it requires a change to an organic law, with a qualified majority. “It won’t happen immediately, but we will do what we can to get it through,” he said.