Full Case Name:  Sentencia definitiva numero: 86 "PRIETO, GERMÁN LUIS C/ COLONNA LUCIANA ANDREA, EXPTE. N° 450237" (2012)

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Country of Origin:  Argentina Court Name:  Cámara de Apelaciones de lo Civil y Comercial y en lo Contencioso Administrativo - Rio Cuarto Primary Citation:  Sentencia definitiva numero: 86 "PRIETO, GERMÁN LUIS C/ COLONNA LUCIANA ANDREA – ORDINARIO – EXPSentencia número 86 de la Cámara de Apelaciones de lo Civil y Comercial y en lo Contencioso Administrativo, de la ciudad de Río Cuarto de 26 de octubre de 2012 Date of Decision:  Friday, October 26, 2012 Judge Name:  Eduardo H. Cenzano Judges:  Rosana A. de Souza Julio Benjamín Ávalos Docket Num:  Expediente SAC 450237
Summary: This case revolves around a dispute between German Luis Prieto (the plaintiff) and Luciana Andrea Colonna (the defendant) regarding the ownership of personal property acquired during their cohabitation. The plaintiff claimed sole ownership of the property assets and sought their return, while the defendant argued that these assets constituted community property acquired for their shared residence during their relationship. Additionally, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff granted her exclusive possession and gifted the property to her upon their separation, relieving her of any obligation to return it. The court held that the plaintiff had the right to take back the property, with the exception of Bauty, considering that the latter had developed a significant emotional bond with the defendant and that his surrender could cause unnecessary suffering. In the judge's view, dogs were not mere "things." Consequently, the judge upheld the lower court's decision in part, ordering all the assets to be returned to the plaintiff. At the same time, the defendant was allowed to retain custody of the canine companion.
Documents:  PDF icon Argentina_2012_Sentencia N°86 del 26.10.2012_dogs are not just things_Spanish.pdf (22.62 KB)

See summary in Spanish.

This is the case of a couple that cohabited for seven years whose separation created a dispute about the ownership of their personal property and their dog "Bauty," a 10-year-old basset hound.

The plaintiff claimed that he had acquired the property during their time together, and thus, he was the sole owner. The defendant argued that her contribution consistent of tending to household duties and performing uncompensated work at the plaintiffs' family business for five years. The defendant stated that both parties contributed to the community property. Therefore, furniture acquired to furnish their home belonged to both of them despite the receipts being in the plaintiff's name. Furthermore, the defendant asserted that upon the separation, the plaintiff granted her exclusive possession and had donated the property to her. Finally, she claimed the plaintiff had given her Bauty as a gift. Thus, the plaintiff did not retain any ownership rights over the dog.

The court held that cohabitation was not a synonym for marriage or even common law marriage and that under Argentinian law, it did not hold any legal effects. Since the defendant did not show that she had acquired any of the disputed property and that, in fact, she had expressly recognized the plaintiff as the purchaser, she was deemed unentitled to claim ownership of it. Consequently, the court partially overturned the lower court's decision and ordered the defendant to return the property to the plaintiff within ten days.

In an interesting turn of events, the court decided to address the issue of Bauty's ownership differently. In deciding who was the owner of the dog, the court gave special importance to the fact that Bauty had lived with the defendant for his entire life. The court also considered the dog's breed, stating, "It is a social dog, a companion, adaptable to apartment living, where he had always lived." The court continued to say that "the special relationship between dogs and humans is well known. It is a partnership with mutual benefits, born in the early days of humanity. Due to their unwavering loyalty, it is rightly said of them that they are our best friends. It is also known that dogs like Bauty, who live inside homes, adopt the habits of their owners. They occupy a place in the family. They are 'humanized,' so to speak. Under these conditions, the relationship between a dog and its owners is very special. From my own experience, I know the affection and love we humans feel for our dogs. Although there is no scientific consensus on this matter because some say that animals do not have feelings However, I am convinced this affection is mutual based on their attitudes toward us. From this perspective, I do not believe that dogs are merely 'things' in the sense of Article 2311 of the Civil Code. The relationship between the dog and its owners has an emotional bond that transcends the law and resists being confined within the bounds of real property rights. It might be asked who Bauty's true 'owner' is: the one who bought him or who has lived with and cared for him for ten years. In this context, condemning the defendant to surrender the dog to the plaintiff will likely cause significant moral suffering without any benefit to the plaintiff, who has lost his bond with the animal over time. Furthermore, Bauty has no economic value, considering his age. Therefore, granting the plaintiff's claim would condone a dysfunctional exercise of rights, an abuse that judges should not tolerate."

Therefore, the court ordered the defendant to return all the personal property to the plaintiff, except Bauty, who could stay with her.

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