Animals are no longer “things” or “objects”, but “Conscious Beings”. As of Wednesday, the law, passed in December, makes cats, dogs and other pets “beings in their own right”, officially entered into force in Spain. Henceforth, they enjoy their own legal status. This small revolution involves changes in three normative texts, including the civil code.
Deletion of inheritances
Thanks to new legislation, pets are now considered genuine members of the family. A reality that makes the extreme right of Vox cry out, the only group that has expressly opposed a law that reflects the evolution of Spanish society’s view of animals. “This law is an aberration, which disrespects the traditional concept of family and puts a child and a dog on the same level,” in December, in Parliament, scandalized deputy Angel López Maraver.
From now on, in case of divorce between two spouses, the judge will have to take into account the fate of a possible pet as if it were a child, when deciding whether or not to share custody. Likewise, it can oblige one of the spouses to pay the expenses related to the care and maintenance of the referred animal, qualified as “animal support” by some critics of the legislation. In addition, if it is proven that one of the spouses is responsible for any mistreatment of the animal, he must be removed. It is no longer a question of registering a cat, a dog or a parrot as part of an inheritance, in the same way as a piece of furniture or any material possession, as was the case until now.
“Dechosify the sentient beings”
“This historic change enshrines the end of the cruel treatment of human beings towards animals, and especially towards those who live with us”, underlined the minister of Social Rights, Ione Belarra, a militant of the radical left party Unidas Podemos and main instigator of the text of the law. “It was about choosing beings that live, suffer, feel.” In the eyes of Nuria Menéndez, director of the Observatory of Animal Justice and Defense, “It is an act of justice that corrects an anachronism. The law gives them the status of living beings, who think and feel..
This new text is the result of a broad political consensus, as already in 2015, with the consent of the left, the conservative right had collected half a million signatures and promoted a popular legislative initiative (ILP) aimed at reforming legislation. The only reservation expressed today by the Popular Party, the main opposition party, is that in the event of divorce, “taking into account the fate of pets complicates that of children”.
In addition to the Civil Code, the law on mortgages was also amended (an animal can no longer be a party to a receivership, like any other “object”) and that in civil proceedings (in the event of a traffic accident, for example, an animal will no longer have the same status as a suitcase).
The entry into force of the law takes place in a country that has always stood out for cruelty to animals. In autumn, the animal festival Pacma identified the dozens of municipalities whose traditional festivals involve animal abuse, such as goose races, duck throwing, horse chases and, of course, festive activities with a scene of bulls subjected to human whims, as in Tordesillas or the Ebro Delta. The association for the defense of animal rights, Adda, denounces “terrible animal abuse” in areas related to experimentation, hunting or intensive breeding. And, from the same source, there would be between 150,000 and 300,000 dog abandonments every year.
Under the leadership of Unidas Podemos, the government wants to be even more ambitious with a second pet bill. It provides for the prohibition of leaving a dog alone for more than 24 hours (3 days for another domestic animal), buying one of these animals in a store, euthanizing a pet, except “compelling reason”. It will also make a digital identification document mandatory for each of the 10 million pets, “to exercise better control and better traceability”. Significantly, the legislator left out bullfighting, which is banned in the Canaries and Catalonia, an issue that deeply divides the country between those who see it as a practice from another era and those who perceive it as a cultural and historical asset.