The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Animal Law Update is a series highlighting legal and policy developments in the rapidly emerging field of animal law.

Argentine Court Recognizes Visitation Agreement for Dogs in Divorce Settlement

Argentine Court Recognizes Visitation Agreement for Dogs in Divorce Settlement

This decision is significant because it handled the care of companion animals within a divorce framework with recognition they are sentient beings who are members of a multispecies family, rather than mere property.
Argentine Court Declares Cougar a “Subject of Rights”

Argentine Court Declares Cougar a “Subject of Rights”

Argentine court has declared a cougar to be a “subject of rights,” providing for her “total freedom” while — in a move noted by some to be contradictory — also granting custody of her to the Buenos Aires Eco-park.
Woolly monkey
In January 2022, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador issued a landmark ruling that individual wild animals are subjects of legal rights under Ecuador’s “rights of nature” constitutional provision. The case involved a woolly monkey who was taken from the wild as a baby and kept unlawfully in a private home for 18 years.
Madrid Court Awards Joint Custody of a Dog in a Pioneering Ruling

Madrid Court Awards Joint Custody of a Dog in a Pioneering Ruling

In a pioneering ruling issued in October 2021, a Madrid court awarded joint custody of a dog, explicitly recognizing the emotional bond between the plaintiff and the animal.
stray dogs

Delhi High Court Rules that Community Dogs Have the Right to Food

In an important decision, the Delhi High Court ruled that community dogs have the right to food and that citizens have the right to feed them. The animal-forward ruling emphasized the species-specific needs and inherent value of community dogs, also called stray or street dogs, and included broad guidance regarding their feeding.

New Arizona Law Distinguishes Companion Animals From Other Tenant Property

“Matthew’s Law” allows landlords to enter a rental unit to retrieve companion animals in the event a tenant dies or becomes incapacitated. It also requires landlords to request an emergency contact for tenants who live with companion animals.
Iberian lynx

Spain Poised to Recognize Animal Sentience Within Civil Code, Clarifying Animals Are Not “Things”

On April 18, 2021, the Spanish Parliament approved consideration of a bill that would amend the country’s Civil Code to recognize animals are “living beings endowed with sentience” rather than “things,” specifically “moveable property.”
The global “rights of nature” movement — which seeks to secure legal rights, including standing, for features of the environment like rivers, forests, and ecosystems — continues to advance with two significant developments in North America.
Madras High Court Uses Child Custody Approach to Resolve Dispute Over Legal Ownership of Elephant
In October 2020, the Madras High Court in India resolved an “ownership” dispute involving an elephant named Lalitha using the “best interests” standard used in child custody cases.

After Groundbreaking Animal Rights Ruling, Islamabad High Court Continues to Affirm Original Decision

In the months following a groundbreaking decision from the Islamabad High Court in Pakistan that animals have legal and natural rights, Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued three subsequent orders, each affirming the court’s original ruling and expressing continued interest in the animals’ well-being.

France to End Mink Farming, Use of Wild Animals in Traveling Circuses, and Captivity of Orcas and Dolphins in Marine Parks

As part of a broad package of animal protection measures, France has banned the farming of mink for their fur, captivity of dolphins and orcas in marine parks, and the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. Also included are new standards to improve the well-being of some species of animals held in zoos.