In many municipalities you are not allowed to walk more than 100 meters from your house, or sometimes not even further than the corner of your street. Owners who do not comply with these measures will be punished with fines of 600 to 30,000 euros.
The question is if Town Council allowed to restrict the walk with your dog during the lockdown?
According to the Spanish Prime Minister, walking the dog is allowed on the basis of two exceptions to the general lockdown, included in the Royal Decree of 14 March (declaring the state of emergency).
The rules for walking, where they talk about the BASIC CONTROLS OF THE DOG, were published shortly afterwards by the Directorate General of Animal Rights, but soon several municipalities decided to give this their own twist.
MUNICIPALITIES MAY NOT LIMIT THE WALK TO A NUMBER OF METRES.
First we have to look at the legislation and the explanations by the competent authorities, where they talk about meeting the basic needs of the dog.
Important are the exceptions to the general lockdown, included in the Royal Decree of 14 March. Article 7 of this decree clearly speaks “situation of necessity” and “other justified reason”. Article 7 g):
“As a result of force majeure or a situation of necessity” and h): “Any other activity of a similar nature to be carried out separately, unless accompanied by persons with disabilities or for any other justifiable reason”.
Above all, however, we must look at the basic rules laid down by the Directorate General, which read as follows:
- Short walks to comply with the BASIC TREATMENTS of the dog
- No contact with other animals or people
- Clean up the poop and throw water over the urine
- Walk preferably at the quieter times
These rules are of course not devised without good reason so that dog owners have an excuse to take the dog to the streets. WALKING IS A BASIC NEED OF THE DOG. It is important for dogs to be able to spend quality time in an environment outside their home as this will meet a variety of basic needs.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in its Terrestrial Animal Health Code, the way an animal deals with the conditions in which it lives is based on “FIVE FREEDOM”, which states that animals should be free from: hunger, thirst and malnutrition; anxiety and stress; physical or thermal discomfort; pain, injury or illness; and free to display normal behaviors of their species. Animal welfare means physical, emotional and mental health, and the need to see all animal species as complex beings. This explains why going outside is the basis for dogs to have sufficient well-being.
The deprivation of this right threatens the physical, emotional and mental health of the animal, thus negatively affecting the dog’s well-being. In addition, it can lead to behavioural problems, which is one of the main causes of animal abandonment.
Fernando Simón, director of the Centre for Coordination of Alarms and Emergencies, therefore confirms:
“As far as pets are concerned, the usual walk.
The difference with pets is not the time, the difference with pets is the way pet owners treat each other. If we don’t want there to be direct contact between people who may be infected, we can’t maintain the same way of interacting between pet owners, but the trips to take pets for walks are not limited to a longer or shorter period of time than the usual”.
Despite this limitation, the usual walk without direct contact, dog owners have seen that many municipalities exceed their powers by publishing municipal standards that further restrict the walk in a totally different way, such as a maximum of 100 meters from your house or a time limit, which contradicts what the government indicated when recommending walks in “less busy hours”.
MUNICIPALITIES ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ISSUE INTERPRETATIVE STANDARDS
During a meeting with the Operational Coordination Centre, a verbal instruction stressed that “local authorities cannot issue interpretative standards of the decrees issued by the government in the context of the state of emergency”, since the Royal Decree 463/2020, declaring the state of emergency, points out in article 4. 3 designates the Minister of the Interior as the delegated competent authority to issue the orders, resolutions, provisions and interpretative instructions necessary in each specific area to guarantee the provision of all services, as well as the protection of people, property and places, by taking one of the measures provided for in Article 11 of Law 4/1981.
Although Royal Decree 463/2020 does not change the powers of the various administrations to adopt measures relating to compliance with mobility restrictions, etc., the municipalities are only competent to adopt measures aimed at carrying out direct orders from the competent authority, as they are not competent to publish provisions containing measures other than these.
In short, municipalities are not competent to impose such restrictions on dog walking.
Following this warning, several municipalities have withdrawn the restrictions imposed, and those who have been fined for walking the dog can appeal.
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