Court says harm to domestic animal is misdemeanor

Spain's Supreme Court building, Madrid. Photo: Concepcion Amat Orta / Wikimedia Commons
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Spain’s Supreme Court has upheld a Cantabrian regional court ruling against a man accused of beating and causing serious injuries to a dog, setting a court precedent that clearly defines abuse of domestic animals as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time or both.

The case involved a man from Güemes, Cantabria, who held a girl’s dog in the air with a rope tied around its neck as he beat it with a cow herder’s stick. As a result of the beating, which the man only ceased after the girl repeatedly asked him to stop, the dog suffered a fracture of its right jaw, loss of teeth, heavy bleeding from the mouth, damage to the eye and lameness to its right hind leg.

Santanader’s Criminal Court No. 2 initially found the man guilty of the misdemeanor of animal abuse (maltrato animal leve), sentenced him to six months in prison and ordered him to pay 500 euros for the amount of veterinary assistance required by the animal, plus all court costs in the case. He was also barred from working with animals in any way for a two-year period.

► News Sources: Público and El Diario Montañés …

The defendant appealed to Cantabria’s regional Audiencia penal court, which maintained his guilt for the misdemeanor of animal abuse but lowered the sentence, substituting the jail time with a fine of 1,080 euros, along with the 500 euro compensation for veterinary costs, plus court costs. The ban on him working with animals was reduced to one year.

Not satisfied, the man appealed the regional court ruling to Spain’s Supreme Court, but lost his bid to have all charges removed on a technicality that the injuries he inflicted to the animal are not specified in the crime of animal abuse with which he was charged.

The Supreme Court disagreed and upheld the Cantabrian Audiencia ruling, establishing clearly that actions constituting the misdemeanor of animal abuse under Spanish law “includes not only violent attacks, but all behavior that, by action or omission, is likely to harm the animal’s health.”

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