Spain: in divorce cases, shared custody of cats and dogs

New law to protect well-being of pets

05 January, 18:27

    ROME - A Spanish law starting Wednesday grants the right to shared custody of pets, establishing them as "living beings endowed with sensitivity" and no longer mere "things", in the event of a couple's divorce.

    The new measure, sponsored by the ruling coalition of PSOE and Podemos, specifies that in the event of divorce, a judge will now have to consider the future of pets, taking into account the interests of family members and the welfare of the animal, distributing custody and care.

    A cat, dog, turtle, fish or pet bird could therefore be the subject of shared custody.

    Thus far, the custody of pets in the event of divorce had been the subject of controversy in the courts, hence the decision to change the Spanish Civil Code.

    The law also obliges owners to "guarantee the welfare" of their animals.

    If they are unable to do so, or if it turns out that a person has a history of animal abuse, custody can be refused or revoked by a judge.

    Spain is not the first European country to recognize animals as "sensitive living beings".

    Similar laws have already been in force in France since 2015, but also in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.

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