Possession of the dog In divorce cases in Spain, the wellbeing of pets will be considered.
Juan and his relative dog Lucky, 14, sit on a bench at Joan Miro park in Barcelona, Spain January 5, 2022. (REUTERS/Nacho Doce)
MADRID, Spain, 5 January (Reuters) - From Wednesday, legal reform in Spain will weigh a pet's wellbeing when couples divorce or break up, bolstering the argument for couples seeking shared custody of their animals.
The judgment, which follows similar developments in France and Portugal, requires judges to see dogs as sentient individuals rather than things held by one partner or the other, a trend that began before the law was written.
"Animals are members of the family, and when a family decides to split up, the fate of the animal must be controlled with the same seriousness as the fate of other family members," said Lola Garcia, a 42-year-old lawyer.
In October, a Madrid judge granted shared custody of a dog to an unmarried couple who had asked the court to decide who should keep the pet after they divorced. The dog stays with each of them for a month, and they are both legally liable.
The reform, according to Garcia, whose Rights&Animals business handled the case, is a key first step in a series of upcoming legislative changes controlling people's relationships with animals.
Spain has the highest rate of pet ownership among European countries, and the left-wing coalition government aims to enhance animal rights legislation, including a prohibition on wild animals in circuses and a restriction on the selling of pets in stores.
The nation, on the other hand, remains divided over the history of bullfighting, a contentious animal rights issue that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
Previously, a lawyer seeking shared custody of a pet had to show that both members of a relationship possessed the animal as an item, giving the advantage to the one who had registered the creature.
Now a court must decide where the animal would do best, and this decision is based on the animal's well-being, according to Garcia.
Because there is a specific emotional bond between children and animals, she continued, a spouse who can establish financial soundness or has been given custody of their children has a higher chance of gaining custody of any pets as well.
Rodrigo Costavilas, a 31-year-old psychologist out walking his dog in Madrid's Rio park, hailed the new legislation.
"This will assist to reduce the number of animals who are abandoned or mistreated."