SPAIN-NEWS AND COMMENT: Spain’s legislature has decided that when one party of a couple in divorce proceedings has made threats against a companion animal to control the other party or has, indeed, abused the family pet or pets during marriage, they may lose their right for shared residence of the children after divorce. Or they may lose their right to have contact with children after divorce. What this is saying is that the politicians in Spain feel that there is a direct connection between how people treat animals and how they going to treat children. If you treat companion animals badly it is likely that you will be not the kind of person to be able to look after the family children after divorce. That is the gist of it on my understanding.
The Times reports that judges in Spain will be given the power to decide who gets the children in divorce on the basis of how either party treated the companion animals, normally either dog or cat, during marriage. If a parent has made treats against pets or threatened to mistreat their companion animals judges will be able to deny joint custody of the children on divorce.
The new legislation would also change the status of animals from possessions and inanimate objects to “living beings with feelings” i.e. sentient creatures. This old-fashioned view of the law in which it regards animals as inanimate objects rather than sentient beings is a weakness and has been for a very long time. The world is waking up to the need to change the law to better reflect the modern human-to-animal relationship which is one not of possession but of companion and human caretaker to companion animal.
The proposed law (a bill) has been backed by the Basque Nationalist Party. They believe that abuse of an animal or the threat of abuse is often used to silence victims of abuse i.e. the other party in the marriage. They state:
“Numerous studies show that the mistreatment of animals, and the threat of mistreating them, especially pets, are part of a coercive system, and that this type of aggression is used as a tactic to intimidate, control and make minors and vulnerable people suffer”.
The right-wing parties oppose the suggested amendment and the bill is passed for debate in the Senate. The Socialists argue that the proposed law reflects rapidly changing attitudes towards animals in Spain. Sandra Guanita Esteruelas, a socialist member of Parliament, said: “This isn’t political do-goodism but legislating with respect, empathy and above all with the needs of the 21 first century [in mind].