No one goes into marriage with the idea that they’ll eventually be calling it quits. The fact is, though, that it happens, and divorces can be messy even when there’s not much to divide. Add kids or pets into the mix and it can get downright ugly. In Argentina recently, a couple going through a contentious divorce were fighting for custody of their two dogs when they were given a surprising decision by the judge: the dogs can decide which parent they want to live with.
The couple, Amorina Bascoy and Emmanuel Medina, each wanted the dogs to come to live with them. This would have kept the animals together, but who would get custody? Many countries have begun to recognize animals as sentient beings rather than mere property. As of November 2019, 32 countries have formally recognized non-human animal sentience. They include Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Otherwise, an animal’s preference would be given no weight.
Let the Dogs Decide
While the couple didn’t say just how the dogs made their momentous decisions, Popeye, six, and Kiara, nine, somehow decided that they each wanted to live with a different parent. Did they just look in the direction of the human they wanted to be with or was it decided by whoever the animal went to first after they both called to them? We’ll never know, but Popeye will be residing with Amorina while Kiara will go to live with Emmanuel. The case has helped establish a legal precedent in the South American country by stating the household was a multi-species family and recognizing that animals and humans all have their rights. Amorina stated, “We didn’t have children, so our dogs are our babies.”
The judge who presided over the case, Diana Sica, noted, “Animals, especially domestic animals, are sensitive beings who feel, who miss, who rejoice, who suffer, and who acquire habit.” Once a precedence is set, it makes it that much easier for others to follow suit with their own cases. While allowing a pet to decide may seem absurd to some people, animal behavioralists say their preferences — at least in the case of canines — are easily identified. Cats could no doubt make their desires known quite clearly as well. What do you think?