On 5 November the Assembly of the Republic rejected two proposals from the BE and PAN political parties that proposed the possibility for horses to be registered as companion animals, also known as pets.

The BE and PAN parties argued that horses can be considered to be pets in specific cases, but that the national register of equines (horses, mules and donkeys) does not allow them to be considered as such. Because of this they are not covered by specific legislation for pets, which provides, for example, sanctions in case of mistreatment, enshrined in the Penal Code.

"These animals are the target of abuses that under the law of mistreatment of [companion] animals would be punishable and in these cases it is not", said the deputy of the Left Block, Maria Manuel Rola, for whom "the limitation of the protection of animals when the target of ill-treatment to those who bark and meow is not suitable for science or social concern".

The PS, PSD, PCP and CDS-PP parties voted against the two projects, which were debated together with a petition signed by more than 11,000 people calling for the adoption of legislation to protect equines, with the argument that they are the recurrent target of abandonment and ill-treatment.

The PS, through Deputy Palmira Maciel, considered that if horses are "on occasion" used as companion animals, "this is reversible and should be combined with other functions", so "at the moment, there is no need to be included in the document of identification".

Waiting for Europe

The socialist deputy added that a process is underway with European bodies with a view to creating specific legislation for equines, since the "need for protection" of these animals is an "issue that cuts across most European Union countries".

In this context, Palmira Maciel stated that national legislation should not be revised "until new European provisions are known".

The PSD, PCP and CDS-PP parties also considered that the legislation in force is "sufficient" to guarantee the protection and welfare of these animals, while there must be means to be effectively put into practice adequate resources for the inspection and reception of abandoned or badly treated animals.

PAN deputy Bebiana Cunha regretted that the Assembly of the Republic systematically rejects proposals related to the welfare of equines. She highlighted cases of animals who are "abandoned, hungry or dead by the side of the road" that "continue to be a reality" in Portugal, as well as the "illegal market" of slaughtering and selling meat from equines.

Regarding the equine registration database in force, she considered that it does not work and has gaps, with hundreds of animals in the country yet to be identified and registered.