It has been passed by parliament and now the new ‘juridical statute’ protecting animals rights, put forward by PAN – the People’s Animals Nature party – awaits the certain rubber-stamp of Portugal’s animal-loving president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. Journalist J. Plácido Júnior reports that once the law is passed, Portugal’s courts will “treat animals more and more like children”.
Writing in Visão magazine, Júnior explains that even two years ago divorce judge Joaquim Silva decided that notwithstanding the law of the time – in which animals were considered “things” – a German Shepherd “adored” by both its owners should spend half its time with one, and half with another.
The judge based his decision on studies by neuroscientist António Damásio who argued that “animals have emotional capacity and competences, and are conscious of these. They possess feelings”.
Silva was also aware that the couple in the process of splitting their lives, “valued the dog as a member of the family” which opened “an ethical dimension much more vast than the one allowed by the juridical regime that considered him a thing”.
With this legal anomaly now “about to end” (the new Statute regards animals as being “living things with feelings”) Júnior claims that Judge Silva sees animals’ new rights as aspects that will deserve the same kind of consideration as those deliberated in the Family and Minors’ courts.
Silva also sees the law as a paving the way towards “shared care orders” (similar to the one he made for the German Shepherd) so that courts will decide not only the future and well-being of any children involved in a split, but also the future and well-being of a family’s animals.
As Júnior concludes: “All different, all equal”, in the eyes of the law.