Justice recognizes for the first time the joint and co-responsible custody of a dog | My Rights | Economy

A couple pull the leashes of a boxer dog.
A couple pull the leashes of a boxer dog.GIANLUCA BATTISTA

It is not the first time that joint custody of an animal has been granted to members of a separating couple. It was already done, for example, in 2019 in a resolution of a Court of Valladolid, in which the criterion for reaching such a decision was the ownership of the animal, that is, joint ownership. However, if it is the first time that after the breakup of the couple, both are declared “joint managers” and “co-keepers” of the dog and not joint owners. Indeed, the Court of First Instance No. 11 of Madrid has established joint custody of the dog, taking into account the existence of an affective bond between the two members of the separated couple and the animal (access here to the sentence).

In this way, as indicated by Lola García, a lawyer for the Law & Animals law firm, which has won this case, it contributes to de-objectifying animals. “It is about opening a path towards the recognition of interspecies families, where non-human animals are perfectly integrated and have great importance within the family,” explains García.

To achieve this approach, says the lawyer, “we are based on the 1987 European Convention for the Protection of Companion Animals that Spain ratified in 2017 and which entered into force in 2018 (that is, 30 years later) instead of our code. civil”. And it is that the reform of the civil code that recognizes that animals are not things but sentient beings, is still pending publication after approval by Congress and the Senate. A reform that García describes as very important, since “it will imply that the welfare of the animal is taken into account together with that of those responsible, as a criterion when establishing its destiny in separations and divorces”.

Beyond ownership

This decision of the Madrid court is therefore ahead of this new regulation and provides that the affective bond that occurs between people and animals deserves legal protection. “The possession of the animal by the couple, when they were living together, for more than a year, has generated an affective bond between the plaintiff and the animal that has been reflected in various tests,” the judge has deduced. In fact, among the evidence provided by the plaintiff, in addition to the adoption contract in which the two members of the couple were listed and the veterinary bills, photographs of both with the dog were also provided in which it was reflected, as indicated in the sentence, his affection for the animal.

For his part, the defendant argued that he had been the one who had assumed the fundamental expenses of the dog and who appeared as its sole owner on all his identification documents (passport, registration, veterinary record, etc.). Despite this, the judge has rejected that the decision of who the dog stays with after the separation can be made solely on the basis of “merely formal data of the ownership of the animal.”

Distribution of expenses for the maintenance of the animal

Ultimately, the ruling has determined the shared tenure between the two keepers of the dog, which means that the animal will live with each of them in alternate periods of one month, and that both will be responsible for assuming their living expenses.

As García explains, as happens in a regulatory agreement when a couple with children separates, in this case, it must be established how the time of stay with the animal will be distributed, as well as ordinary expenses, such as food and hairdressing, and the extraordinary ones, such as veterinary assistance. “We cannot forget that whoever decides to take care of an animal has a responsibility and assumes a series of obligations with the animal that cannot be avoided in any case,” concludes the lawyer.

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