Your deepest roots are in nature. No matter who you are, where you live or what kind of life you lead, you remain irrevocably linked with the rest of creation. ~ Charles Cook
Animal rights are in the news a lot these days. Whether it’s talk of the good Samaritans who help the mistreated or abandoned ones, or those on the other end of the spectrum; the people vilified by unspeakable things they do to animals, there is much talk about the protection of these creatures who cannot speak for themselves.
We at Affordable Mallorca want to highlight the specific issues, good and bad, for animals on the island and talk about the latest protections. We discuss steps that the government and public at large are taking to prevent or allow certain acts widely considered cruel to continue or not.
While we are simply providing facts to you, please know that we will always place our support with the animals. Always.
Spanish Laws on Animal Protection #
The Spanish were a little slow off the mark when it came to animal protection, only enforcing the European directive on it in 2018, just over thirty years after it was passed. Even still there are wildly different animal welfare laws for each of the seventeen autonomously-governed regions, making for slightly confusing rules.
The autonomous region of the Balearic Islands, of which Mallorca is a part, has some of the most progressive policies, but enforcement can be spotty, mostly due to lack of an adequate number of agents, though the basic regulations seem to be adhered to and in some cases are very strictly enforced.
Authorities on the island are required to actively promote the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to prevent unwanted litters from finding their way to shelters, roadsides or worse. Breeding is of course allowed, but it is controlled to prevent overuse of female animals, with the goal of eliminating so-called “puppy farms”.
No animal on the island may be euthanised except by a trained veterinarian, unless it is absolutely necessary to put the animal out of extreme misery and no vet is available or able to get to the scene quickly. Then it is only permissible if the person takes care to end the suffering swiftly with as little mental and physical distress as possible.
Adopt - Don't Shop #
Rescued animals who have been lost, mistreated, abandoned, or are simply stray have rules dictating their care. No animal brought into government run shelters on Mallorca is put to sleep, unless they are incurable and in severe distress. No animal is denied access to basic care and shelter. A “zero sacrifice” policy is currently being pushed through by the Balearic government to further ensure the defence of all animals.
Several Mallorcan towns and villages also have “Trap, Neuter, Return” programmes in place. My village, Santa Maria del Camí, has one and there has been quite a bit of success using this method. The animals who have been fixed are marked with a small notch in their ear, so they can be identified easily by authorities. In my town, it isn’t only the authorities who collect these feral animals, I have also seen and read of several private citizens who make a habit of taking this task on themselves.
Regulations on the island state you cannot purposefully starve an animal, leave it in direct sun in hot months, beat it, tie it to a short chain, or otherwise wilfully mistreat it. A local man was sentenced in 2015 to a year in prison after he let his dog starve to death and another was also given jail time for beating his racehorse to death in a fit of angry rage, a sign that judges are taking these cases more and more seriously and imposing the maximum sentences where appropriate.
Public and Corporate Support of Animals #
Though this is neither a law, nor is it specifically Spanish, there is a growing public and corporate trend toward not financially contributing to or attending events where animals are held in captivity in unnatural environments. Circuses, marine park attractions, and zoos that don’t provide proper habitats are being shunned by many in an effort to hit these entities where it hurts and persuade them to change their policies and the way they treat their animal populations.
One of the biggest is the announcement that the internet travel platform "Trip Advisor" will no longer sell tickets to any attraction that involves the captivity, importation and future breeding for captivity of cetaceans for public display and entertainment. This is not their first foray into ticket bans for animal welfare.
A few years back, they stopped selling tickets to attractions where travelers came into direct contact with wild, captive or endangered animals, such as in the cases of elephant rides, swimming with dolphins or petting tigers. As the world’s largest travel website, the reviews and policies have clout with holiday-makers looking for ethical vacation choices.
These moves have been applauded by animal welfare groups and environmental scientists alike and have started other travel companies down the path to creating the same types of bans.
Mallorca Specific Problems and Solutions #
There are hot topic issues on the island that pop up over and over again in the quest to protect the animals of the island against those who would exploit them. The problem is this: Not everyone sees exploitation the same way. And, sometimes long-held practices that seem (and are) cruel to modern-day outsiders aren’t viewed as such by those who derive a living from certain animals or who own them to be used as beasts of burden.
Bullfighting was effectively banned in 2017 on Mallorca, but the legality of outlawing this cultural custom has been challenged by constitutional courts who state that this particular regional law breaches the Spanish Constitution and overrides state power. As a result, a bullfight took place in Palma last August to a crowd of 11,000 spectators, opening the door for other towns who traditionally held bullfights to resume the practice despite myriad protests to counter them.
Those against bullfights view them as unnecessarily barbaric and outdated. Those for them see it as part of Spanish heritage and claim the death of the bull is honourable and not in vain, as the bull is portioned up after death and sold to restaurants, just as if he were slaughtered at an abattoir.
Horse Drawn Carriages #
This has been in the news a lot, especially after the heat waves of the previous several summers The Palma City Council has regulated the hours carriage owners can operate on hot days. A ban from 12h to 17h on orange or red alert day, which are known 24 hours in advance, is one way they are trying to come to a compromise.
But many people are calling for an end to carriage rides, full stop. They think the health and safety of the horses and bystanders are at grave risk, particularly in summer, and that the risks outweigh the benefits.
Horses collapsing in the streets on hot days, people getting kicked by a spooked horse, panic-stricken horses breaking free and running amok in town… all these things have happened here and those against this kind of usage of horses think it should just be ended before anything else bad happens. Owners, who are required to give their horses regular medical check-ups, say that their livelihood is being stolen and that the animals have been bred to pull carts, plows and yes, people, for centuries.
It is now up to the government to legislate criteria to resolve these controversies instead of making these issues endless battles. Our choice is whether we buy a ticket for the next bullfight or to take a carriage ride on a sweltering day – or not.
What to Do if You See an Abused or Mistreated Animal #
There are a couple of courses of action you can take here on Mallorca if you see what you suspect is a case of neglect.
If the person in question seems to be more careless than vicious toward the animal, you can just speak directly with the owner and alert them that what you have witnessed is unacceptable. This is often enough to shame him or her into better treatment, if only because they know someone has clocked their behaviour and will continue to do so.
But what if you approach them and they ignore you, or worse, are actively hostile? This is where you use the law to protect yourself and the animal(s) from repercussions.
Most of us don’t know how to make a denúncia, or civil report to the police. Seprona, the Guardia Civil’s environmental arm offers these suggestions if you spot an animal in jeopardy.
- Go to your local Civil Guard, as neither the Local Police nor the National Police are required to handle complaints of this kind, and sometimes are less than eager to so.
- If it is really urgent call 112. What is an urgent case? Where an animal's life is in imminent danger.
- Take as much written information with you as you can: names, addresses and a map showing where the animal is. This will help the officers to investigate your complaint promptly. If the case is against a neighbour, and you fear retaliation, ask an animal welfare association representative to act on your behalf. Take photos, with proof of date, i.e. a newspaper. Camera dates are not sufficient or admissible.
- If you don’t speak sufficient Spanish, get someone who does to go with you or contact your local animal welfare society for help or information.
- The Guardia Civil will give you a copy of the denúncia, and their copy will be given to Seprona for investigation.
- Seprona has the legal ability to investigate and take action.
- Keep hold of your copy of the denúncia, so that it can be followed up later.
Who Can Help #
There are a few places you can contact if you find a stray or lost animal or, if you want to adopt, know of one destined to be euthanised or otherwise misused or in need of a new home. A short list follows:
They pick up stray animals daily and transfer them to their facilities in Palma where they can be adopted to picked up by owners. Open 9h-13h30 Monday to Friday and 9h-12h on Saturdays.
Address: Path Son Reus s/n 07120 Palma / +34 971 438 864
Feliz Animal Andratx
Open Monday to Saturday from 9h30-13h30 by appointment
Sociedad Protectora de Animales y Plantas de Mallorca
Adoption costs: 60 € for rabies vaccine and chip / 70 € to 140 € for castration. Boarding: 10 € per day and special price for long stay
Address: Cami Nou s/n, 07009 Palma / +34 971 470 060
Opening times: Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 13:30. Saturday from 10:00 to 12:00. Costs: Vaccinations 14,96 € / Microchip 16,74 € / Admin fees 1,36€. Adopters must be of age and provide photographic proof of identity.
Address: Camino de Son Reus s/n, 07120 Palma / +34 971 438 695
SOS Animal Mallorca
Founded in 1995, they have been instrumental in saving and bettering the lives of hundreds of animals. They have locations in Calvia and Andratx. They are a charity, so donations and volunteers are welcome.
Address: Apartado de Correos 6, 07184 Calvia / +34 971 606 467 / www.sos-animal.mallorca.org/es
First Aid Animals Mallorca
This organisation has been taking in abused and distressed animals for 15 years and give them food, vet care and a happier life. Foster care and adoptions are possible, and donations are gratefully accepted.
Info: +34 677 21 42 52 and +34 634 340 807 / www.mallorca-tierrettung.com
Most of us deplore the idea of seeing any living creature endure pain and suffering. But it is important to keep in mind that not all cultures view animals as pets, and therefore, in the same category as humans. Of course, we want to respect other viewpoints, but in a modern society, there are certain behaviours that aren’t acceptable in any context, under any situation.
Knowing the laws that govern the welfare and protection of those who cannot speak for themselves is paramount in the journey to help change attitudes, as is acting when you see something you know isn’t right. Every living thing deserves respect and an opportunity for the best life possible…and we can all make this happen by working together for better understanding.
By Stephanie Horsman
7 March, 2021