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After several months of waiting, today (1/5), Spain has made pets officially considered “sentient beings” under the law and will no longer be categorized as “objects” in divorce proceedings.

As a result, family courts must consider both the animal’s welfare, as well as the family’s needs, when deciding who looks after the dog or cat.

According to Spanish News Today, Spain is the latest European country to recognize animals as sentient beings, joining a group that includes France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Portugal.

The legislation aims to end the legal wrangling that often erupts among estranged couples over who keeps the pets.

It stipulates that owners must “guarantee” the pet’s well-being and that if either spouse has a history of cruelty to animals he, or she may be refused or lose custody of the animal.