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New Law In Spain Declares Pets Legal Family Members

Pet owners across the globe consider their furry, scaly, and feathered friends part of the family. That title is only personal though, as when it comes to legal classifications of who is and isn't family, pets are often excluded, which can lead to trouble in certain situations.

Spain is joining a number of other countries in allowing pets to be legally considered family, giving them and their owners more rights.

Spain has declared that pets are family members.

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In a newly passed ruling focusing on animal welfare, pets are now considered ‘sentient beings’ in the Spanish court of law, meaning they're recognized as being able to express feelings and emotions.

Pets used to be considered objects or possessions, so this is a huge change when it comes to classifying the role of a pet within a family.

This ruling has been over four years in the making.

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The law was made effective on January 5th of this year by the Congress of Deputies in Spain’s lower house, and with it, they join other European countries like France, Switzerland, and Austria in considering pets to be legal members of the family.

Changes had to be made to Spain’s Civil Code, Mortgage Law, and Civil Procedural Act as the role of pets was redefined.

What exactly is the purpose behind this law?

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This change was largely made in consideration of couples that are separating, so that the pets may be included in custody agreements. This helps prevent pets from being seized, abandoned, or mistreated by ensuring it goes with the more capable owner.

A pet-related custody battle already took place in Spain last October.

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A couple in Madrid couldn't decide who should take the dog they both raised while breaking up, so they filed for a custody lawsuit.

Animal rights lawyer Lola García took on the case, and in the end, the judge ruled joint custody between the two, calling them "co-caretakers." They would each have the dog for a month at a time and share all expenses.

That ruling was the first of its kind in Spain, and now it won't be the last.

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About the case, García said, "What is novel is to be able to use the convention to avoid having to define the pet as a shared thing or property and instead to focus on the animal’s welfare, the emotional bond, and the shared responsibility of taking care of an animal, beyond the pet being considered a property."

Other countries appear to be following this trend, too.

Unsplash | Yerlin Matu

In the UK, a bill called the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill is awaiting a report in the House of Lords that, should it pass, will ensure that all government orders consider the welfare of animals and pets.

It's a hugely positive step hopefully be matched by countries around the world!

h/t: BreezyScroll