Animals no longer considered things

The law change promised in which animals are no longer seen as things came into effect on Monday (May 1).

The new legal status, overwhelmingly approved in Parliament last December, recognises animals as living beings with feelings and a right to legal protection similar to children (click here).

As a result of the law change married couples who separate will now have to reach an agreement regarding the custody of any pets. The law states that animals should be “entrusted to one or both spouses, taking into account, in particular, the interests of each of the spouses and children and also the welfare of the animal”.

Even if couples reach an agreement among themselves, they will have to report it. And if both want ownership, the issue will have to be settled by a judge.

Changes have also been made regarding punishments for animal abuse.

“Whoever attacks or kills an animal shall be obliged to compensate the owner or the individuals or entities that came to its aid for the expenses they incurred in their treatment,” says the new law.

Jail terms of up to three years or fines also await people who steal or “illegitimately own” animals.

The law also stipulates that owners “must ensure the welfare of their animals”, meaning feeding them properly, and providing veterinary care.

According to RTP, this special legal status for animals has been in place for several years in other European countries (Switzerland, Austria and Germany).

“This is a victory for all animal associations, for all animal lovers and mostly for all pets in Portugal,” Maria do Céu Sampaio, president of the Portuguese League for the Protection of Animal Rights, told the station.

She stressed nonetheless that the law needs to be extended to cover all animals, and not just pets.

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