Changes to laws in Spain sees pets become legal family members. But there’s a catch…
I was never a dog person. Until I was.
Almost two years ago, amid the dizzy heights of the early pandemic, our baby black Labrador was born in Co Clare.
We’d weighted up the pros and cons and decided to add to our family. We knew it would be difficult. I knew I’d be the one doing all the picking up (initially, at least) so I choose the dog I wanted and then there was Jet.
She’s a placid beauty with soulful eyes and the best company I keep up Kiliney hill. She’s curious and gentle and she brings me more joy than I could have imagined.
Then lockdown two came and we all lost our minds a little. Before we could quite believe what was happening, our scrappy French Bull Jack, Rocky exploded into our lives.
Now we have five children. It’s no exaggeration to say that they are very much part of our family. Which is why new Spanish regulations make sense. From this week, pets will be considered official as sentient beings and as such will no longer be classified as ‘objects’.
The legal reform means that pets will now be considered members of a family and will have a different status from that of material goods.
So far, so adorable.
But what about when it comes to separations and divorce?
The move includes regulations over shared custody of animals should a couple separate. For example, a judge will be able to modify the conditions of an animal’s care when necessary, as well as establishing how the costs of the pet should be covered between the two parties, and even deciding on its destination should there be no agreement.
What’s more, judges will be able to limit parents’ access to children in cases of separation should they have mistreated their pets, either as a form of vicarious violence or gender violence in order to control or victimize their ex-partner or offspring.
Pets can also now be included in wills. But if they are not, they will be handed over to inheritors who reclaim them.
Speaking to El Pais, Nuria Menéndez de Llano, the director of the Observatory for Animal Justice and Defense, which was behind the collection of signatures that preceded the current changes, believes that it is “right for this anachronism to be corrected.”
“For them to be recognized as sentient beings is historic. Before they were reduced to the status of a thing, and now the law recognises them as living things, with the ability to think and feel.”
The lawyer points out that with these changes, Spain is following in the footsteps of other European countries – such as France, Germany, Switzerland and Portugal – but with more advanced legislation.
“It’s an intense reform, and one that is far reaching.
Two of the more controversial elements of the future law include the prohibition of leaving a dog without supervision for more than 24 hours, as well as the elimination of the list of dangerous dogs.
“Condemning a dog from birth, just because of its breed, to always have to wear a muzzle and a tighter leash is not acceptable. The future law seems better for us than what was there before.” explains one animal rights activist.
The law will also promote awareness campaigns against animal abuse and abandonment.
Any rules that make life better for our furry friends is fine by us.