While writing the syllabus for the comparative criminal law seminar that I will teach in Buenos Aires this September, I stumbled upon Spain’s anti-cruelty statutes. It seems that in Spain it’s only a crime to mistreat companion animals (Art. 337 of Spanish Penal Code) or unjustifiably inflict pain on non-companion animals pursuant to a public show or sporting event (Art. 632(2) of Spanish Penal Code). Therefore, it seems that, contrary to what I have argued is the case in the United States, Spain’s anti-cruelty statutes do not seek to protect the animal itself from cruel mistreatment. Rather, the goal of Spanish cruelty laws appears to be the protection of those with close emotional ties to the mistreated animal or those who witness the infliction of unjustifiable harm on the creatures. Furthermore, at first glance, it appears that Spanish cruelty statutes protect animals less than their American counterparts, for unjustifiably mistreating non-companion animals is a crime in many, if not all, states regardless of whether it takes place in public or private.
I wonder why Spain’s legislature decided to limit the scope of Art. 632(2) by requiring that the mistreatment occur in public. Perhaps it was meant to ban animal fighting. This would seem rather odd, though, as it clearly was not intended to ban bullfighting and, given that dogs are companion animals, dog fighting would be a crime pursuant to Art. 337 if the dogs are significantly harmed as a result of the event. Do any of our Spanish readers know the answer to this question?
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