Image of the exterior of the Penitentiary Center of Zaballa (Álava), dependent on the Basque Government.
The judicial resolution that on August 1 authorized the celebration in prison of a meeting of coexistence (with physical contact and known as vis a vis) between an inmate and his dog, supposedly about to be sacrificed, has not yet been executed. The reason: the inmate had not fulfilled until Tuesday one of the conditions imposed by the head of the Penitentiary Surveillance Court number 1 of the Basque Country, based in Bilbao, so that the pet could enter the prison. Specifically, the presentation of a veterinary certificate on the terminal situation of the animal, according to prison sources and confirmed to EL PAÍS by the Department of Justice of the Basque Government.
The entry of animals into Spanish prisons is an exceptional event and, almost always, occurs by court order, according to different prison sources. Article 225.2 of the Prison Regulations establishes that, "as a general rule, for hygienic reasons the presence of animals in prisons and, in any case, in cells shall not be authorized". The animal welfare law, which will enter into force on September 29, does not affect this prohibition, which will be maintained, prison sources clarify.
Judge authorizes inmate to have a 'vis a vis' with his dog before pet is euthanized
The request for the pet to enter prison was made by the inmate last spring, when he was held in the Martutene Penitentiary Center (Gipuzkoa). The prison management rejected it in the first instance considering that the prison regulations do not cover the celebration of vis a vis with pets, so the inmate presented on June 23 before the judge of Penitentiary Surveillance a "complaint against the interception of communications", in which he alleged that his pet was going to be sacrificed due to its poor state of health. On August 1, the magistrate, after requesting a report from the psychologist of the penitentiary center on the convenience for the prisoner of said meeting, gave the reason to this ―who by then had already been transferred to the prison of Zaballa (Vitoria) after having been sanctioned for other facts in the Gipuzkoan prison― and authorized the celebration of the encounter with the animal.
However, the judge imposed four conditions on the inmate for the vis a vis to take place. Among them was, precisely, to provide a veterinary certificate on the inevitable sacrifice of the pet. In addition, the dog should be taken to the prison by a family member who would also have been authorized to participate in the meeting and during "the journey from the entrance of the Penitentiary Center to the dependency of vis a vis [the animal] must be [led] with a muzzle and tied with a leash". Finally, the magistrate insisted that, in case the pet soiled the meeting area, "the inmate will clean the dependencies."
Although prison legislation does not contemplate the entry of pets into prison, animals and, specifically, dogs do enter them, although in circumstances very different from that raised by the judge in his August resolution. In addition to the canine units that the Ministry of the Interior launched in 2019 to detect and prevent the entry of drugs into prisons, dogs have been used for years in the so-called Animal-Assisted Therapy (TACA), a prison program aimed mainly at inmates with affective deficiencies or lack of self-esteem. Pet care within prisons seeks to improve these inmates their relationships with other people and achieve some emotional stability within a broader reintegration plan.
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