If there’s one thing that sets the British apart, at least in their own minds, it’s their love of animals, and many British residents keep dogs, or want to. Many British residents also, however, are either unaware, or are misinformed, about the rules that apply, both to their right to keep animals in the first place, and the regulations governing certain dogs.

Spanish law legislates against loose animals in all places, and nothing infuriates owners more than becoming aware that their pets are not welcome on Tenerife’s beaches. But they are not, and most beaches exclude dogs even when on a lead, and even if the owner has bags to clean up after their pets. There are, however, a few beaches here that allow dogs, though those classified as potentially dangerous (see below) must be kept on a lead and muzzled, and owners must clean up any mess left by any dogs in their care. The beaches that allow dogs are detailed HERE, and each of them will have a list of the specific rules that must be obeyed.

The ban on loose animals extends to the communal areas of complexes. Communities are, moreover, governed by the Law of Horizontal Division which is only ever concerned with owners, so by default, only owners actually have an automatic right to keep pets on complexes: tenants may do so, but only if their contract expressly permits it or, at least, does not prohibit it. A community has no legal right or power to “ban pets”, only the owner of an individual unit in a complex can decide whether or not pets enter that unit. The law does require any pet, however, to be kept on a lead in communal areas, and despite cat owners’ frequent protests, this applies to cats as well as dogs, and both must be chipped and registered (see HERE).

To repeat, simply because of the number of times I’m asked – this means, to be explicit, that there is nothing in the Law of Horizontal Division or Spanish Law to prevent anyone having a pet on a complex. I often hear about presidents or complexes that introduce “no animals” rules and the simple fact is that they have no legislative power to introduce such a rule, and cannot enforce it. The only issue for the law is whether an animal is loose, or whether an individual owner puts a “no animals” clause into a rental contract. A community or its officers cannot be above the law and introduce restrictions on owners that private property law does not impose.

For people in independent properties not on complexes, it is essential to check with your local Ayuntamiento what its rules are on numbers of dogs you can keep. Many municipalities limit numbers to five for anyone who is not registered as an animal pound or refuge, and in addition regulate that such pounds and refuges may not be within urban boundaries. These rules are quite standard throughout Tenerife, but vary slightly borough to borough. Anyone with pets will need to register them anyway so that would be a good time to check what the specific area’s rules are as to numbers of animals allowed.

As far as registration is concerned, it is legally required throughout the Canaries. Although this is done at local Ayuntamientos, some are more conscientious than others, and owners may be told that there is no actual need, or requirement, to register their pet. Please see the Resources page HERE for links to local authorities and particular requirements. Where all councils agree, however, and where the rules are rigid, is in respect of the further requirements for dogs considered “potentially dangerous” (perros potencialmente peligrosos).

Such dogs are defined as follows by Royal Decree 287/2002 (a continuation of 50/1999); there is also a Canarian law, and local Ayuntamientos too will often have their own, usually stricter, criteria beyond this generic descriptions in the national and regional legislation:

1. Those belonging to any of the following breeds and their crosses:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Tosa Inu
  • Akita Inu

2. Those animals that have all or many of the following characteristics:

  • Strong musculature, powerful or athletic constitution, robustness, agility, vigor and endurance.
  • Strong character and marked courage.
  • Short hair.
  • Thoracic perimeter between 60 and 80 cm, shoulder height of between 50 and 70 cm, and weight over 20 kg.
  • Voluminous, square, robust head, with a wide and large skull and muscular and pronounced cheeks. Strong and large jaws, robust, wide and deep snout.
  • Broad, short and muscled neck.
  • Broad, thick, deep chest, with arched ribs and short and muscled back.
  • Straight, parallel and robust forelegs and muscular hindquarters, with relatively long hindlegs at a moderate angle.

3. Those dogs with a record of aggressive tendencies or prior attacks on humans or other animals.

All dogs deemed by law to be potentially dangerous must be taken out on a lead, and this must be a fixed lead of a maximum 2 metre length, not an extendable one, and they must also wear a muzzle. They must be tied up even on private property that is not fully enclosed; and their owners must have a licence and public liability insurance of €150,000, proof of which must be carried with them when they walk their dog.

The authorities consider that we are all responsible when it comes to ensuring that tragedies such as the killing in 2010 of a Santa Cruz toddler by the family pitbull become a thing of the past. Fines vary from municipality to municipality, but are considerable, and can go from double figures up to €15,000 for anyone who fails to comply with the law. Fines at the lower end are for owners who do not muzzle such dogs; top end fines will be for failing to register and not having insurance, repeated offences, and so on.

The rules for dogs deemed potentially dangerous, in a nutshell, are:

  • owners cannot be children
  • owners must not have a criminal record
  • owners must register their dog with their local townhall and pay a local tax when they do so
  • owners must be physically and psychologically accredited by their local town hall
  • owners must have public liability insurance to a minimum of €150,000

Ayuntamientos will create a file for the animal. It will include photographs (owners supply two when they register the dog) and record the number of its chip.

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