Wednesday, August 17

Pets will be members of the family by law in Spain: what will happen in case of divorce?


Animals are no longer considered “things” for legal purposes and become members of the family in Spain. From now on, they will be living beings endowed with sensitivity, a legal translation to a feeling that already existed in society.

This has been decided by the country with the entry into force, this Wednesday, of the bill that modifies at the same time the Civil Code, the Mortgage law and the Civil Procedure law in relation to the legal regime of animals.

The origin is in an initiative promoted in 2015 by the Animal Justice and Defense Observatory, which collected more than 500,000 signatures so that animals stopped being things in the Civil Code to be considered sentient beings.

In this way, Spain joins a list of European countries that also recognize animals as sentient beings, including France (2015), Germany (1990), Switzerland (2003), Belgium (2009), Austria (1986) and Portugal (2017). Outside the European Union we find similar rules in Canada and New Zealand.

What does this law mean in practice?

It mainly points out that animals are endowed with the ability to feel and, in some cases, have feelings. One of the aspects of this rule that has attracted the most attention is that regulates joint custody of companion animals in the event that a couple divorces or separates.

In this way, the family courts should take into account both the welfare of the animal and the needs of the family when deciding who takes care of any domestic animal, be it a dog, cat, turtle or bird. The judge may determine the spouses’ participation in maintenance of the pet and its care.

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In addition, it establishes that the owners must “guarantee” the welfare of the pet and that if one has A history of cruelty to animals may be denied or you may lose custody of the animal. In turn, the magistrate will be in charge of deciding who will take care of the animal in the event that there is no agreement between both parties.

The decision on the custody of the children will fall on the judges in the event that one of the spouses has mistreated the animal or has threatened to abuse it. This will become a form of vicarious violence.

What will happen to pets after the death of their owner?

The rule protects pets from being repossessed and mortgaged, abandoned, or caused suffering or pain. They cannot be used as a tool in gender violence and incorporates that they can be disposed of by will. If the deceased does not leave his will in writing, the animals will be for the family member who claims them.

If this is not the case, the pet will stay in a reception center for abandoned animals or an institution that can accommodate it until an agreement is reached on its destination. If the family members refuse to care for the animal, another person can be found who can take care of it..

The rule ensures that whoever finds a lost animal must hand it over to its owner or to the person responsible for its care, unless there are well-founded indications of abuse or neglect. In the case of delivering it, you can claim the expenses of healing and caring for the animal.

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