Animals: from things to sentient beings

The Court of Milan has recently dealt with an issue that increasingly occurs in separation proceedings, namely the question of how animals are dealt with if the spouses separate from each other.

In the case at hand, article 9 of the separation’s terms and conditions provided that the parents had decided that the family cats were to continue living in the home of the mother (where the child was also living). The mother would bear the ordinary costs, whereas the extraordinary costs would be borne equally by both spouses.

The Court held that, in the Italian legal system (also as a result of the entry into force of the Law no. 201 dated 4 November 2010 that ratified and implemented the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, signed in Strasbourg on November 13, 1987) feelings for animals are constitutionally protected and have obtained European recognition, so that a real individual right to pets must be recognized (cfr. Court of Varese judgment handed down on December 7, 2011). 

This has also been recognized by Law No. 220 December 11, 2012, which, by amending Article 1138 of the Italian Civil Code, provides that Condominium Regulations cannot prohibit the owning or possession of domestic animals.

It follows therefrom that, according to an evolutionary interpretation of the existing rules, animals cannot be construed as things, but rather as sentient beings.

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