DOMESTIC ANIMALS AND PETS – What is the Law in Portugal?

In the last couple of years the animal protection law has improved a lot towards standards of countries like Germany and Switzerland, especially for domestic animals and pets.

Similar animal rights legislation is already in force in most European Union countries. The concept is that animals are not to be treated as ‘things’ and must have their own distinct legal status. It recognizes animals as living beings with feelings and with the right to legal protection similar to children.

Austria was the first country to approve a legal status for animals in 1988, followed by France, Switzerland, New Zealand and Germany among others.

The Portuguese Parliament has supported new laws in 2018 to criminalize the mistreatment of animals, diminish the discrimination of vegetarians and vegans, and improve the social acceptance and perception of companion animals. It was agreed though that as for many other EU countries, enforcement of legislation is a major challenge and that many animal protection issues currently remain unaddressed.

1. Animals are no longer considered ‘Things’ in Portugal

Since May 2017, animals are no longer seen as things in Portugal but are recognized as living beings with feelings and a right to legal protection similar to children. The new legal status of animals was approved by the Portuguese parliament with an overwhelming majority.

2. Married couples who Separate have to reach an agreement regarding the custody of any pets

According to Portuguese law, in case of separation of a married couple, animals should be entrusted to one or both spouses, taking into account the interests of each of the spouses, their children and also the welfare of the animal. If both ex-partners want ownership of the animal, the issue will have to be settled by a judge. If the couple finds an agreement among themselves, they will still have to report it.

3. Pets are allowed in Restaurants and other commercial establishments of Portugal

The Portuguese Parliament also approved a law that permits pets to accompany their owners into commercial establishments, including shops and restaurants, from May 2018.

The law allows pets to enter commercial spaces, properly marked as pet-friendly, when accompanied by their owners. The law requires that pets must be secured with a short leash and not allowed to move freely. Owners of pet-friendly spaces are permitted to limit the numbers of pets allowed in the premises with the option to provide specific reserved areas where pets can move freely. Pets are not allowed in food preparation areas.

The law, sponsored by the People-Animal-Nature (PAN) party and supported by the Green party and the Socialist party, does not specify which pets are allowed. Establishment owners will have to make their own decisions on which pets are welcome. Guide dogs and assistance dogs must be admitted in all establishments.

4. Mistreating and Abandonment of Pets is a Punishable Crime in Portugal

A Portuguese law that was introduced in 2014 cracks down on pet owners who mistreat or abandon their animals.

Neglect without legitimate reason is punishable with penalties ranging from fines up to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the abuse, and abandonment that put at risk the animals’ feeding and other care also became punishable with jail terms.

The law was expanded in 2015 and anyone found guilty of inflicting pain or suffering upon domesticated animals can now be banned from owning them as well as being deprived of the right to keep pets for 5 years. The addition is one of a list of accessory punishments for offenders. The closure of pet-related establishments and the suspension of administrative permits, such as licenses, are other measures covered in the expansion.

Under the law anyone who inflicts pain, suffering or any other physical harm without reasonable cause to a companion animal is punishable with imprisonment up to 1 year or the equivalent of up to 120 days’ fine.

The law regards also the abuse to pets not owned. Whoever attacks or kills an animal, shall be obliged to compensate the owner or the individuals or entities that came to its aid for the expenses they incurred in their treatment. Jail terms up to 3 years or fines also await people who steal or illegitimately own animals.

In the event of abandonment the crime is punished with prison sentences of up to 6 months or 120 days’ fine. Should the neglect result in the death of a pet, the loss of an important organ or limb, or serious and permanent impediment of its ability to walk, the offender will be punished with imprisonment up to 2 years or a fine of up to 240 days. The law considers the following scenarios are considered as pet abandonment:

  • Taking no effort to provide the necessary care and accommodation. Owners must ensure the welfare of their animals, feed them properly, and providing veterinary care.
  • Freeing the animal from its usual accommodation without holding anyone responsible for its care and accommodation, such as another person, the local authority, or animal shelter.

These acts are considered an offense that is punishable by fines ranging from 25€ to 3740€. Decreto nº 315/2003 of the 17th of December Art nº 6ºA and 68º

5. Registering your Pet is Obligatory in Portugal

Living in Portugal with animals require some mandatory processes for you as a pet owner that include registration and having a license which you have to renew every year.

In Portugal, registering your dog or cat, and getting a license for them when you relocate them, is compulsory. When you decide to live in Portugal with your pet, you will have to follow some steps and rules.

How to Register your Dog or Cat in Portugal

Every pet owner is responsible to clearly identify their pets with a microchip and register them in the Portuguese National Pet Database when the animal is between 3 and 6 months of age.

All dogs born after the 1st of July 2008 must have an identification chip (microchip) regardless of breed or purpose and a vaccination against rabies. In the case of cats this obligation will take place from a date which is yet to be defined and declared by the Ministry of Agriculture.Owners of all dogs are also obliged by law to ensure that any dog over the age of three months is vaccinated against rabies. Portaria nº 81/2002 of the 24th January Art nº 2

Only veterinarians can implant this electronic identification microchip. The microchip is a very small capsule that is applied under the skin in the left lateral side of your pet’s neck.

After the microchip is implanted, you have 30 days to register and license the pet in your residence area, at the local office of the Junta de Freguesia. The animal only needs to be registered once during its lifetime. Licenses for relocated pets needs to be renewed yearly.

To register your pet and get a license for it in Portugal, you have to have or show:

  • A health report (sanitary bulletin) and registration form for the animal with an up-to-date rabies vaccination – both obtained and filled by the vet
  • An electronic identification chip
  • Rabies vaccination
  • If your dog is for hunting, you need to show your hunting license.
  • For ‘Potentially Dangerous’ dogs in category G, you have to show
    • Your police record
    • Proof of liability insurance
    • A certificate to prove physical and mental fitness and health of the owner
    • Evidence that the animal has been castrated or sterilised.

Dogs used in the military, police or State security are exempt from needing a license, but the bodies that own them must have their own means of identification and registration.

How to Renew the License for my Dog or Cat

You need to renew your license to keep your pet in Portugal every year for a fee of about €20 at the office of the Junta de Freguesia where the animal was first registered. Portaria nº 421/2004 of the 24th of April art nº 4º

6. How many Dogs and Cats can I own ?

Photo by Pope Moysuh on Unsplash

In rural buildings (land only) or mixed buildings (land with a house), you can keep up to 6 adult animals and possibly even more if the plot is large enough and standards of welfare for the animals are guaranteed.

If you live in an apartment (both in rural and urban areas) may only have up to 3 dogs or 4 adult cats per apartment, as long as you observe rules for public health and keeping the peace in your neighborhood. However, you may not exceed an overall total of 4 pets in total. This can be increased to 6 adult dogs if you get approval from the local authority vet and public health officer. To do this, you must apply for authorization from the town hall where you live. A limit on the number of animals you can keep can always be lower than stated above, depending on rules of common occupancy.

If you fail to observe these laws, the local authority will inspect your premises by sending out an environmental health officer or a local authority vet who will warn the owner that their animals will be taken away and placed in local authority kennels for a specific length of time. This gives the owner a period of time to comply with the standards.

Decreto nº 314/2003 of the 17th December Art nº 3º

7. The different categories of pets

Rafeiro Alentejano

Dogs and cats are categorized as follows:

  • Category A – Pet dog
  • Category B – Dogs for your economic livelihood
  • Category C – Dogs for military purposes
  • Category D – Dogs for scientific research
  • Category E – Hunting dogs
  • Category F – Guide dogs
  • Category G – Potentially dangerous dogs
  • Category H – Dangerous dogs
  • Category I – Cats

Dangerous and Potentially Dangerous Dogs

Category G (Potentially Dangerous Dogs) includes: Rottweilers, Brazilian Fila Dogs, Argentine Dogo, Pitt Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Tosa Inu.

There is specific legislation in place that you need to be aware of for category H (dangerous dogs) and category G (potentially dangerous dogs):

Portuguese pet law does not prohibit you from owning a dog of the listed breeds. However, there are stringent rules you must consider before deciding to own or relocate with any such dogs in Portugal. Always check with the local Junta de Freguesia before getting or relocating with a potentially dangerous dog breed to Portugal.

All dangerous and potentially dangerous dog breeds referred above must have electronic identification (microchip). In addition, these breeds also need a special license issued by the Junta de Freguesia and the owner must purchase liability insurance. The law requires that the owner is over 18 and undergoes a psychological aptitude evaluation. In addition, the owner must sign a responsibility term, and must not have a criminal record.

Pet law in Portugal defines dangerous pets as pets that in any way have revealed aggressive behaviors in the past. Potentially dangerous pets are those that according to species and breed may cause injury or death to people or other animals.

Portugal recognizes a “Dangerous Animal” as any kind of animal of any breed that is subject to the following conditions:

  • Has bitten or attacked someone
  • A seriously injured or killed another animal outside of the owner’s property
  • Has been voluntarily declared by its owner as having aggressive behavior
  • Has been considered a risk to the safety of people or other animals by the competent authorities.

8. Responsibility for Dog Actions – Noise and other Problems

Under Portuguese pet law, you or any other person in control of your pet at the time of incident are responsible for any injuries or damages that the pet may cause to third parties or their property. You are also liable for any medical expenses incurred by third parties. In addition you can also be charged with a crime or civil responsibilities based on your pet’s actions. Download: Portaria nº 81/2002 of the 24th January art nº 29º

As an owner, you’re responsible for ensure the well-being of your pet and for making sure it doesn’t disturb your neighbors, whether in an apartment or on a farm in the countryside. Noise is one of the biggest problems with dogs and the people living around them, especially certain behaviors like constantly barking. In the countryside it can also be worse when dogs that ‘defend’ the property, ‘hunt’ cars and bikes, or attack people.

You need to know that any neighbor experiencing problems can contact the police (GNR or PSP). They can request that you stop the source of the noise or problem or they will alert the council, who can issue you with a minimum fine of 500 euros.

9. Walking your Dog or Cat

Every cat or dog that is walked in public places must be in line with pet law in Portugal. The law states that pets must wear a collar or harness with the name and address or telephone number of the owner. Decreto nº 314/2003 of the 17th December Art 7º

10. Report of Death, Change of Ownership, Loss or Theft of your Pet

Portuguese pet law states that you are responsible to report the death, transfer of ownership, loss or theft of your pet to the local Junta de Freguesia within 5 days. You must also report any change or the loss of your pet’s sanitary card within 30 days. Decreto nº 313/2003 of the 17th December Art nº 12º

If you fail to do so and your pet is found by the authorities, you can be accused of abandonment. Portaria nº 421/2004 of the 24th of April Art nº 3º


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Disclaimer: This article about animal laws in Portugal should not substitute the reading of the law itself. In case of doubt, you can talk to your local veterinary or Junta de Freguesia.

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3 Responses

  1. Andy

    My neighbours have 12 hunting dogs permanently chained in their back yard along with a number of puppies, they bark day and night, sometimes all together sometimes just one or two. We have spoken to the GNR cepna and they investigated and did nothing. We have spoken to the police and they say they cant do anything, all we can do is complain about noise during the hours between 2300 and 0700 in the morning. It seems the GNR do not want to enforce the law on chaining dogs permanently, and the owners have the dogs properly licenced. Is there anything else I can do. I live in Terceira azores

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