Dogs legally considered part of the family in Colombia

Dog scaled

Jader Alexis Castaño, a university dean from Colombia, experienced deep depression following the loss of his dog Simona during a divorce. Castaño referred to Simona as his “dog child”, and Colombian courts agreed.

His limited visits with Simona after the divorce convinced him that the dog was emotionally affected each time they parted ways. Despite Castaño’s desire for scheduled visits, his ex-wife, Lina María Ochoa, was unwilling to agree.

To address this, Castaño took the matter to court, leading to a groundbreaking ruling in the end of October. The court declared Simona to be legally considered “his daughter,” marking the first such ruling in Colombia. Castaño argued in his lawsuit that Simona was a crucial part of the family, and both he and the dog suffered from the lack of frequent visits.

What initially began as a lawsuit for regular visitation evolved into a broader legal question: should a dog be treated like any other family member in custody arrangements after a divorce? The Bogotá Superior Court concluded that Simona was indeed a member of the “multispecies” family before the divorce.

This ruling acknowledged that animals are not mere objects, as a 2016 decision had established. Animals were recognized as living beings with emotions, and humans were deemed responsible for their well-being, requiring protection from pain and ensuring proper care. The court considered this perspective in evaluating the impact of Castaño’s separation from Simona on the dog’s well-being. Now, a family judge must determine the specific visitation schedule for Castaño and Simona.

This precedent-setting decision marked the first time a Colombian court recognized an animal as a family member when treated as such by its owners. Latin American legal systems are leading the way in acknowledging animals as family members, reflecting a global shift in attitudes toward animals. A parallel case happened in Peru in 2018, where a court deemed a pig named Petunia a member of a family.

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