Divorced couple’s dog is legally a family member and should be treated like a daughter, court rules: Colombian owner wins legal right for visits after pet suffers emotional trauma following split from wife

For one family dog, the separation from her two owners was all too much: she waited days for her owner to come visit her, but he had to leave after a few hours.

The family home that the dog, affectionately named Simona, had known for the first years of her life changed forever when her owners Jader Castano and Lina Ochoa decided to divorce in 2021.

Lina had full custody of Simona and refused to allow Jader, a rector at the Colombian university, to make guaranteed visits to see and play with the dog, which he affectionately called his “hija perruna” or “dog child.”

That meant Simona would wait weeks to see her beloved Jader again – and the belly rubs never lasted long enough before her master had to trudge away from her.

Jader was convinced that Simona was “emotionally affected” every time their encounters ended and that the principal himself became depressed after losing the dog in the divorce – so much so that he could not eat a meal due to his grief, according to court documents.

For one family dog, the separation from her two owners was all too much: she waited days for her owner to come visit her, but he had to leave after a few hours (file image)

After months of heartbreak, Jader decided to do something about it and took the matter to court, hoping that he would be able to see Simona during pre-arranged and guaranteed visits.

And judges at Bogota’s Supreme Court ruled last month that the dog should be legally considered his “daughter” and treated as a child in divorce proceedings in the first case of its kind in Colombia.

Jader had sued his ex-wife for refusing to let him make scheduled visits to Simona, arguing that the dog was part of the “family core” and that they had a “bond of love.” He said both he and the dog had both been hit hard by the separation and lack of frequent visits.

Before the Colombian judges, the lawsuit demanding regular visits was ruled out by a broader question: Should Simona be treated as a family member?

Their answer was yes – and the judges ruled that Simona had been a member of the ‘multispecies’ family before the divorce.

‘In the present case, it must be emphasized that the plaintiff (Jader) considers Simona as his daughter and that Simona also has a reaction due to the divorce of Jader and Lina.

They ruled that Jader was now entitled to regular and scheduled visits to his beloved dog Simone, who the judges said had also suffered emotionally after the marriage collapsed.

In 2016, Colombian judges ruled that animals are not objects that people can simply transport, but living beings with feelings.

The court also ruled that owners must care for the emotional and physical well-being of their pets and protect them from pain.

But the latest ruling went much further, stating that pets can be viewed as family members – and should be treated as such.

According to the Harvard Review of Latin America, the rights of animals and pets have become enshrined in the laws of countries throughout Latin America in recent years.

‘Latin American legal systems are at the forefront when it comes to considering animals as family members. In a global recent change in attitudes toward animals in Western societies, many people today recognize themselves as part of a multispecies family,” wrote the Harvard Review.

In Peru, a court ruled in 2018 that a three-year-old pig named Petunia was a family member and should not be separated from her owners.

The local authority had said the pig was a public health risk and should be moved to a farm, but the family challenged this in court, saying they had formed a strong bond with Petunia and considered her a family member. The court ruled in their favor and Petunia continued to live with her family.