"I get the car, you can keep the dog." In Spain, pets are still considered "movable property", on the same level as a car, book shelf and so on. It means they are considered as objects rather than living beings capable of emotion.
One Spanish party is campaigning to change the country's Civil Code to change pets' status from mere things into beings with their own feelings. This will protect them and recognise that they have their own rights, reports El Pais.
It will be submitted to the country's Congress of Deputies today (12 December) by Spain's People's Party (PP). The PP wants to amend three laws: they want to modify the Civil Code, the Mortgage law – so that dogs are not passed on as inheritance like other objects – and the Civil Procedure Law – so that pets will not be seized by bailiffs in case of debt.
The amendments are all expected to pass.
The PP proposes that the amendment aligns with the French and the Portuguese Civil Codes, which already recognise pets as living beings, different from humans and other forms of life such as plants.
A spokesperson for the PP, Rafael Hernando, said that the goal of the reform was to give animals "more protection". However, he pointed out that more rights for the animals also meant more duties for their owners.
In case of divorce, recognising pets are living beings rather than objects could prompt talks about how to regulate shared custody of the pet by the two owners after the split up – much like what happens with children.
The judges will have to follow some criteria – specified in the law's body – in order to decide which owner gets the dog and how custody will be split up between the two partners.
While animals will be considered their own beings, pet accessories such as cages, bird hives and so on will be counted as real estate in case of separation, but only has long as the owner commits to keeping them in the house.
The PP recognises that while animals are living beings, they are still owned by humans. As a result, it stresses the need for the owners to keep in mind that pets are beings, and for them to care about the welfare of their animals and do not abandon or abuse them.
Spain's Penal Code already distinguishes between damages inflicted to animals and objects. However, since 2010, it no longer recognises animal cruelty as a crime.
The PP's proposal was inspired by a petition of 243,000 signature the Spanish Congress discussed in February 2017. It has now gathered almost 348,000 signatures.
The Parliamentary Association in Defense of the Rights of Animals (APDDA) is calling for all representatives to vote in favour of the amendment and says the change will be "a historic step", as well as a new era of law where animals' rights and feelings are recognised and protected.