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A Colombian court ruled that a dog should be considered a family member and treated as such when a couple divorces, the first such ruling in the Latin American country, the Washington Post reported.

The case centers on a dispute over the shared custody of a dog named Simona following the divorce of Colombian couple, Jader Alexis Castaño and his former wife Lina María Ochoa.

Court records showed that Castaño was left depressed after losing his pup because he was unable to play with this “dog child” – as he often referred to Simona. He alleged that he and Simona had been emotionally affected by the split and that the pooch was part of the “family’s nucleus.”

Ochoa had refused to allow frequent visits, which prompted Castaño to sue her, demanding scheduled time with Simona.

Last month, the Bogotá Superior Court ruled that Simona should be legally considered Castaño’s “daughter” and that she was an official member of a “multispecies” family before the divorce.

The court noted that Castaño is entitled to scheduled visits with the canine, describing the latter as a living creature with feelings who also suffered after the marriage ended.

The verdict was influenced by a 2016 decision that ruled that animals were not “cosas muebles” – a legal term meaning objects that humans could transport wherever they wanted – but rather living beings with feelings.

The Colombian court’s recent decision marks the first time an animal can be considered a family member, but the case is not the first in Latin America.

In 2018, a Peruvian court declared Petunia, a 3-year-old pig, as a member of a family in the central region of Junín. The decision came after the municipal government classified the animal as a public health risk and ordered her family to relocate her to a farm.

According to the online magazine ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America, the region is “at the forefront of considering animals as family members.”

“In a global recent attitudinal change toward animals in Western societies, today, many people recognize themselves as part of a multispecies family,” it added.

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