Skip to content

Argentine court recognizes dogs as rightsholders

By Jake Davis

We at the NhRP welcome more good news from Buenos Aires as the same Argentine court that recognized a cougar named Lola Limon as a subject of rights has now recognized fifty-five dachshunds (and their later-born puppies) as the subjects of rights (thank you Silvina Pezzetta for sharing this English translation of the decision).

On June 14, 2022, Argentine authorities raided the home of Mrs. Ana Cingolani who was accused of operating an illegal puppy mill. The prosecutor made two requests to the court. First, that all fifty-five seized dachshunds should be declared subjects of rights because they are sentient beings. Second, that the dachshunds should be given their “total freedom, free of any legal measure or restriction” resulting in a custody transfer from the accused in favor of two NGOs specializing in canine care.

Regarding the rights request, the court began its evaluation by referencing section 41 of Argentina’s National Constitution, which establishes that all Argentines enjoy the right to a healthy environment and have a duty to preserve it. The court then noted that the Constitution of the City of Buenos Aires (§ 27, ¶ 5) promotes the protection of urban fauna and respect for its life. It added that National Law No. 14.346, which punishes animal cruelty (and preceded both constitutions), denotes a longstanding legislative policy reaffirming the protection of animal rights. The court also referenced international regulations like the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights, the Charter of the law of the Living, the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997, and the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 in finding that Argentine legislative intent was in line with contemporary international movements that recognize animals could be subjects of rights. This trend, posited the court, was based “mainly on the idea that animals are, like humans, living beings vulnerable to suffering.”

Ultimately, the court found the dogs to be the subjects of rights and did not mince words when it held that “the new current of animal rights movements argues that it is not enough to treat animals well or to ensure their welfare but that animals, regardless of their species, are subjects of rights, a category that has historically been reserved for natural and legal persons, i.e., human beings.”

Regarding the custody request, the court made a straightforward evaluation of the dachshunds’ living conditions while in the care of Mrs. Cingolani and the resulting physical and psychological deterioration of many of the individual dogs because of those conditions. The court stressed that to guarantee animal welfare five freedoms must be fulfilled: (1) freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition (2) freedom from discomfort (3) freedom from pain, injury, and disease (4) freedom to express normal behavior (5) freedom from fear and distress, and failure to comply with any one of them denotes the absence of appropriate welfare measures. The court found none of the freedoms were met and ordered all dogs transferred to specialized care.

Lastly, in an unexpected finding, the court recognized that several of the dachshunds were pregnant at the time of their seizure and held that “without knowing with certainty how many animals were born alive … I will declare them as subjects of rights.” This finding reaffirmed the position that an animal in Argentina must possess only sentience to warrant the status of a rightsholder. This is in stark contrast to American courts, where no judge has agreed to recognize even the most cognitively complex of nonhuman animals as rightsholders.

Still, with each international case that recognizes nonhuman animals for their inherent value and individual needs, i.e. their rights, the day a US court does the same is that much closer. One need only look to Judge Rowan D. Wilson and Judge Jenny Rivera’s dissents in Happy’s case. Both judges cite international case law that recognizes the rights of nonhuman animals, and both judges draw on those decisions for their conclusions that Happy should have been able to successfully challenge her unjust confinement at the Bronx Zoo.

Sign up to receive the latest updates on our mission

Find out about opportunities to get involved, breaking news in our cases and campaigns, and more.