The law, which changes the legal status of animals from “things” to “living creatures with sensitivity,” has been in effect in Spain since Wednesday. Companion animals become legal family members and judges must involve them in divorce, inheritance and child custody.
Under the new law of the ruling left-wing PSOE, it is the owners’ responsibility to ensure the welfare of the animal “in accordance with the characteristics of each species”.
The measures taken by the court in the event of divorce will not only be dictated by the changing situation of the spouses and the needs of the children, but also by the “new needs of the companion animals”. In addition, the court will take into account the spouses’ share of the costs of maintaining and caring for the animal, the division of time spent with it, and will decide its fate in case of disagreement between the spouses “taking into account both the interests of the divorcing couple and the welfare of the animal.”
Under the Civil Code reform, judges will rule on, among other things, the residence of minor children with their parents from the point of view of the treatment of pets, and a court can, for example, refuse joint custody of the children to a spouse who has previously been convicted of animal cruelty. The rationale states that animal cruelty can be used as a form of psychological violence and indirect maltreatment in the family environment, both against minors and partners.
Pets can also be included in a will. In the event of the death of one of the owners, and the latter does not make a will, the court will decide the fate of the animal, always guided by its well-being.
Under the Mortgage Reform Act, livestock, domestic or recreational animals cannot be mortgaged, and under the new Civil Procedure Act, animals cannot be seized as payment for their owners’ debts.
Owners and those living with an animal also have the right to claim non-material damages in the event of an injury to a pet “which resulted in death or serious impairment of its physical or mental health”.
The opposition right-wing People’s Party (PP) has criticized the new legislation for equating the welfare of a pet with that of the rest of the family, including children. † It’s an animal ideology that Vox doesn’t share – said in turn the deputy of this right-wing populist party, Jose Maria Sanchez Garcia.
The reformation of animals as living creatures caused more and more controversy during development. There are plenty of comments and comments about the new law in Spanish social networks.
In Portugal, as in Spain, animals are not ‘things’ but ‘living beings with feelings’. Already in 2017, the authorities of this country approved an amendment to the Civil Code, according to which judges must include pets in divorce, inheritance and childcare. The law also provides specific rules for the living conditions of Portuguese pets. According to them, the allowed number of pets in an apartment should not exceed three adult dogs or four adult cats. The maximum number of adult dogs and cats can be six, but a positive decision should be made by the municipal veterinarian and the local government.
The civil codes of European countries contain provisions specifically related to the legal status of animals. For example art. 90a of the German Civil Code states that “animals are not things, they are protected by special rights”, but “are subject to the provisions relating to things unless otherwise stated”.
Similar provisions are included in Austrian, Swiss, Dutch and Czech legislation.
Likewise, Article 1 of the Polish Animal Protection Act recognizes that “an animal, as a living being capable of suffering, is not a thing.”
Pets have “movable property” status under the Swedish Civil Code. Consequently, in the event of divorce, they are treated as other valuables. There are cases when the spouses voluntarily agree to take care of the pet alternately.
There is a Sentient Beings Act in the UK and an Animal Feeling Committee is being set up to advise on future animal welfare legislation. Importantly, animals include not only vertebrates, but also cephalopods (eg octopus, squid) and some crustaceans (eg crabs, lobsters, shrimps, crayfish).
The law of many countries still accepts that animals are things or property, including in the United States and Australia.
PAP / from