Though we often view our pets as members of our families, the law often takes a colder view. Frequently pets are given the same legal status as any other personal property; killing a dog is considered legally equivalent to destroying a toaster, and the remedy is often limited only to how much a new replacement dog would cost.
But a judge in Argentina has just taken a different view, ruling that a dog and the couple who owned him were part of a “multispecies family”, and that the dog was deserving of greater legal rights.
In the case, a police officer entered the home of of Maximiliano and Marianella, residents of the Argentine province of Chubut. The couple’s dog, Tita, bumped into the officer’s left leg. The officer then drew his weapon and fired at Tita, fatally striking her in the neck. He was sentenced to one year in prison.
The ruling was based on a 2015 case related to an orangutan named Sandra, who was determined to be “a sentient being” by the court. Tita, described in the ruling as the couple’s “non-human daughter” seems to further elevate the status of animals in the legal system.
United States courts have not yet adopted a similar view of companion animals, although shifting social views make it seem more likely.