Spain Declares Pets Legal Family Members After Laws Change

Any dog parent knows that pets are family members. But when animals get stolen or caught in the middle of a breakup, they’re usually considered property instead of living things. Yet, it might not stay that way for long.

Spain recently passed a new law that will consider animals legal family members. This law can help protect them if families split up. Officials will keep the animals’ well-being in mind during divorces and custody battles. It’s a step in the right direction for animal rights, but how many countries will join in?

Pregnant woman and Dachshund

New Animal Rights Law

On January 5th, 2022, Spain passed a law that labels pets as “sentient beings” instead of “objects.” They can experience feelings and emotions, which is why they’re no longer grouped with other personal belongings.

This new law has been in the works for about four years. It changed Spain’s Civil Code, Mortgage Law, and Civil Procedural Act in positive ways. All animals, both domesticated and wild, will be affected by it.

“Animals are part of the family, and when a family decides to separate, the fate of the animal must be regulated with the same importance as the fate of other family members,” said lawyer Lola Garcia.

Couple kissing near dog

The main purpose of this change is to keep pets protected during legal fights among couples. The court will consider the animal’s well-being when choosing who should get custody of a pet. Animals can no longer be abandoned, seized, or mortgaged. Instead, the judge must take the dog’s placement as seriously as any other family member’s.

Spain Isn’t The First

These changes significantly improve animal welfare, but Spain isn’t the first country to make this change. France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal also see animals as sentient beings instead of objects.

Some custody battles have already taken a dog’s best interest into account. A couple in Spain recently got joint custody of their dog after a breakup. So, pets as legal family members are consistently becoming more common in this world.

Woman working with baby and dog

“This will help in the reduction of animals being abandoned or badly treated,” said psychologist Rodrigo Costavilas.

Pets have always been family members to the humans who love them, but making it official is important. Dogs deserve to be kept in the best home possible, even if their humans split up. So, laws like this can help ensure that happens if couples don’t cooperate. It’s only a matter of time before more countries add similar pet rules.


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