Animal sentience paves the way for dog and cat support payments on divorce

When the animal welfare laws of any country state that companion animals are sentient beings, it is a great leap forward in animal rights which is clearly apparent in a recent divorce case from Spain where the reform of the Animal Welfare Act in 2021 ensured that animals are regarded as sentient beings and their care becomes part of divorce proceedings where the parties can’t agree.

In this instance, a divorce court in Pontevedra, Spain, ruled that, on divorce, the father and former husband, must pay €75 a month per child and €40 per month for the dog’s upkeep by the former wife. This represented “half of the extraordinary expenses and veterinary bills” to be incurred by the wife in her caregiving of the family dog.

Under Spanish law, dogs and cats are sentient beings and therefore a court can make an order for the caregiving of a dog in divorce proceedings when the animal goes to live with either party
Under Spanish law, dogs and cats are sentient beings and therefore a court can make an order for the caregiving of a dog in divorce proceedings when the animal goes to live with either party. Image: MikeB
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

RELATED: Infographic on 9 emotions domestic cats feel and 1 they don’t. You have to be sentient to have emotions.

This is a cross post from an article I recently wrote on a different website because I think it’s very important. It’s important to publicise the benefits of ensuring that the sentience of animals is enshrined in law. It leads to an improvement in animal rights.


Remarkably, the UK is out of step it appears with the rest of Europe. In Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal among other countries, they regard animals are sentient beings under the law.

In the UK animals are regarded as inanimate objects or in old-fashioned language “chattels”. You divide up the dog (not literally 😉) among yourselves, ideally, or if you can’t decide you hand over the job to the court to make a court order.

But unlike in Spain, you won’t find a court order in the UK making provision for support payments for a dog or cat in the same way that they would make the order for a child.

It might happen on occasions, exceptionally, but in Spain it is a legal obligation for the court to make such an order if necessary as I understand it.

It’s remarkable that the UK is so out of step and so behind on this because as in other countries, companion animals are firmly regarded as members of the family. They are often regarded as children by homeowners and parents of human children. Why then does the British law treat them as dead objects like furniture or fridges when it comes to divorce proceedings? The answer is that the law is often well behind what happens on the ground; in real life.

That’s because it takes a lot of debate in Parliament to change the law and often parliamentary debating time is limited and there are more pressing things for legislators to discuss, it is felt. Perhaps the politicians are wrong in this respect.

Capable of feelings

Separately, some people struggle to believe that animals are capable of feelings. This is a dying belief because things are changing in the world but there’s a hard core of people who just don’t see animals are sentient which is why they can shoot them for fun in sport hunting.

The reason why some people struggle to see animals as capable of having emotions is because humans are very arrogant human-animals (relative to animals) and they believe that every other animal is secondary to them and many people still believe that animals should serve the human animal (dominion over them as per the bible). This is in countries particularly where there is less enlightenment through education. And where Christian believes are more influential.

RELATED: It Is Impossible to Recognize Animal Sentience in Law!

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