Spain. Pets become legal family members

Under the new law of the ruling left-wing PSOE, it is the owners’ responsibility to ensure the welfare of the animal “according to 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 share of the spouses in the cost of maintenance and care of the animal, the time spent on 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.

SEE: Spain. Judges must consider animals in divorce, inheritance and childcare

Pets can also be included in wills. 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 a pet also have the right to claim non-pecuniary damages if a pet has been injured “which resulted in death or serious impairment of its physical or mental health.”

“It’s an animal ideology”

The right-wing opposition party (PP) has criticized the new legislation for equating a pet’s well-being with that of the rest of the family, including children. “It’s an animalistic ideology that Vox does not share,” said José Maria Sanchez Garcia, MP for the right-wing populist party.

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.

Animal statute in European countries

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 divorces, inheritances 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 must 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.

SEE: Mazowieckie. The thief and the duck fence apprehended. The animals returned home

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.

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