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Angie Vega (2022)

I. Introduction

Argentina is a country located in the southern side of South America. It is the second-largest country in South America and the eighth-largest country in the world. It is organized under a federal system, divided into 23 provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the country’s capital. Buenos Aires and the 23 provinces have their own constitutions. Argentina is a civil law country, which means that codes are the main source of law. These codes contain all the principles that judges have to abide by when making a decision. Judges do not have to follow judicial precedent, as prior decisions are not considered binding for all.

As one of the biggest red meat producers in the world, Argentina has an extensive list of laws and regulations that aim to regulate subjects such as animal health, cattle production, humane transport, slaughter facilities, and stunning methods. It also has the National Program of Organic Production and the National Police for animal health. Animal health is considered a topic of national interest.

Argentina is one of the leading countries in the region when it comes to animal protection laws and animal rights. The first animal protection law "Ley 2.786," commonly known as “Ley Sarmiento” was passed in Argentina in 1954, established that animals could be victims, but created lenient punishment for acts of cruelty against animals. This law was replaced in 1956 by "Ley 14.346" or “Ley Peron,” which established jail time for those who committed cruel acts against animals, and is still valid to this day. The first societies for the protection of animals were created back in the XIX century in Buenos Aires (1882) and Rosario (1886) as well. The prohibition of bullfighting and cockfighting were also some of the major accomplishments for animal protection of this century.

Article 41 of the National Constitution establishes that everyone has the right to enjoy a healthy environment. Natural and cultural heritage, as well as biological diversity, are part of it, and the authorities and all citizens have the duty to protect it. It can be said that under this article, animals are tacitly protected.

Interestingly, animals are not considered sentient beings by the law. Particularly, the Civil and Commercial code in its article 227 defines animals as “movable objects” that can move by themselves or can be moved by an external force. However, Argentina is a pioneer in the animal rights movement. It was the first country to judicially declare an orangutan (Sandra) and a chimpanzee (Cecilia) subject of rights through two separate legal actions. Sandra was granted legal rights through an “amparo,” whereas Cecilia, was granted a writ of habeas corpus.

Animal mistreatment and cruelty are considered misdemeanors under the criminal code and Ley 14346 and can be reported to the police or to the prosecutor’s office by any person. This law also prohibited cockfighting in 1886. Even though, animal cruelty is considered a misdemeanor, under Ley 14.346, judges have repeatively held that animals are subjects of rights.  In 2011, the “National Program for Responsible Ownership and Health of Dogs and Cats” is created.

Argentina has special legislation protecting specific species. It has statutes for the protection of wild fauna, rheas, vicuñas, and jaguars. Dog racing is also prohibited in the entire territory, and Andean deer are considered natural monuments. When it comes to cetaceans, Argentina has a number of laws granting them special protection. For instance, “Ley 25577” prohibits cetacean hunting and intentional capture in the entire territory; “Ley 25052” prohibits the hunting or capture of killer whales using fishing nets or forced stranding; and “Ley 23094” declares Southern Right Whales national natural monuments.

Argentina is also part of various international treaties and conventions such as the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals, Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterbird Habitat, Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles, and CITES.

Finally, Argentina is one of the countries opening the door to the legal recognition of the “multispecies family.” In an unprecedented case in this country, a criminal judge declared that a family dog named “Tita” was a nonhuman person and a non-human daughter to her family, who was a multispecies family. Tita was shot and killed by an on-duty police officer in 2020. Even though the charges were set aside and the police officer that shot Tita was acquitted in 2022, the tribunal did not mention the status of Tita as a member of her multispecies family in its reasoning setting aside the verdict.


Related articles - The first animal protection society against barbaric spectacles and cruelty in Argentina

Related cases

Pometti, Hugo c/Provincia de Mendoza s/acción de amparo (2017): This is an action of protection or "accion de amparo” filed by Hugo Edgardo Pometti against the Province of Mendoza in The Court of Associated Judicial Management No. 2 of Mendoza. The Petitioner sought to stop the transfer of the chimpanzee Cecilia to the sanctuary located in Brazil and to keep her in the Zoo of Mendoza in order to preserve the natural and cultural heritage and the biological diversity. The petitioner also requested a precautionary action to not transfer the chimpanzee until decision on the action of amparo was issued.

“PRESENTACIÓN EFECTUADA POR A.F.A.D.A RESPECTO DEL CHIMPANCÉ “CECILIA”- SUJETO NO HUMANO (2016): “Abogados y Funcionarios de defensa Animal” (AFADA) brought a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Cecilia, a 30 year old chimpanzee that lived in the Mendoza Zoo, alleging that the chimpanzee had been illegitimately and arbitrarily deprived of her right to ambulatory freedom and right to have a dignified life on the part of authorities of the Zoo of the City of Mendoza, Argentina. The court granted habeas corpus to Cecilia, ruling that Cecilia was a living being with rights and instructing defendants to immediately free her and to relocate her to the Great Ape Project Sanctuary in Brazil. Until this moment, only humans illegally detained had been granted this writ. 

ASOCIACION DE FUNCIONARIOS Y ABOGADOS POR LOS DERECHOS DE LOS ANIMALES Y OTROS CONTRA GCBA SOBRE AMPARO (2015): The court held that Sandra, an orangutan that had lived at the Buenos Aires Zoo for over 20 years, is a non-human person subject to rights, based on the precedent of the Argentina’s Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation of December 18, 2014 and Ley 14.346, 1954. “Sandra has the right to enjoy the highest quality of life possible to her particular and individual situation, tending to avoid any kind of suffering that could be generated by the interference of humans in her life." In its holding, the court also stated that the Buenos Aires government has to guarantee Sandra’s adequate condition of habitat and the activities necessary to preserve her cognitive abilities. The amicus curiae experts Dr. Miguel Rivolta, Héctor Ferrari and Dr. Gabriel Aguado were instructed to prepare a binding report resolving what measures had to be adopted by the government in relationship to Sandra. 

Causa Nº 17001-06-00/13 “Incidente de apelación en autos G. B., R. s/inf. ley 14346” (2015): This is an appeal of a decision in first instance where the lower court gave the custody of 68 dogs to the Center for Prevention of Animal Cruelty. The 68 dogs were found in extremely poor conditions, sick, malnourished, dehydrated under the custody of the defendant. Various dogs had dermatitis, conjunctivitis, otitis, sparse hair and boils, lacerations, pyoderma and ulcers. The officers that executed the search also found the decomposing body of a dead dog inside the premises. The lower court determined the defendant had mental disabilities, which did not allow her to comprehend the scope of her acts, for which she was not found guilty of animal cruelty. However, the court determined that she was not suited to care for the dogs. The Defendant appealed the decision arguing that the dogs were not subject to confiscation.

Orangutana, Sandra s/ Habeas Corpus (2014): This decision was decided on an appeal of the writ of habeas corpus brought on behalf of an orangutan named Sandra after it was denied in its first instance. Pablo Buompadre, President of the Association of Officials and Attorneys for the Rights of Animals (AFADA), brought a writ of habeas corpus against the Government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires and the City Zoological Garden of Buenos Aires on behalf of the hybrid of two different orangutan species named "Sandra." AFADA sought the immediate release and relocation of Sandra to the primate sanctuary of Sorocaba in the State of Sao Paulo in Brazil. AFADA argued that Sandra had been deprived illegitimately and arbitrarily of her freedom by the authorities of the zoo, and that her mental and physical health was at the time deeply deteriorated, with imminent risk of death. For the first time, basic legal rights were granted to an animal. In this case, Argentina’s Federal Chamber of Criminal Cassation ruled that animals are holders of basic rights. The Court stated that “from a dynamic and non-static legal interpretation, it is necessary to recognize [Sandra] an orangutan as a subject of rights, as non-human subjects (animals) are holders of rights, so it imposes her protection."

T. , J. A. s/ infracción Ley 14.346 (2012): The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court that sentenced the Defendant to eleven months of imprisonment after finding him criminally responsible for acts of cruelty in violation of Article 1 of Ley 14.346 against a stray dog. The Defendant was found guilty of sexually abusing a dog, who he forced into his premises. The dog’s genital area was sheared and she had serious injuries, which the veterinarian concluded were clear signs of penetration. The Supreme Court referred to the Chamber of Appeals on Criminal Matters of Parana "B.J.L. s/ infracción a la Ley 14.346", of October 1, 2003, where the referred court stated that “the norms of Ley 14.346 protect animals against acts of cruelty and mistreatment, is not based on mercy, but on the legal recognition of a framework of rights for other species that must be preserved, not only from predation, but also from treatment that is incompatible with the minimum rationality." Further, "the definition of ‘person’ also includes in our pluralistic and anonymous societies a rational way of contact with animals that excludes cruel or degrading treatment."

Fallo Kattan Alberto c/ Estado Nacional. Año 1982  42.470/83 (1983): Before the Argentina National Constitution of 1994, the attorney Alberto Kattan and Juan Schroder brought an action of amparo (protection of rights) against the national government to prevent the hunting of 14 Commerson's dolphins that had been authorized by the national government. The question was whether these people had a cause of action as they had not suffered any direct or personal harm. The court declared the action of amparo valid leaving the administrative authorizations that allowed the hunting of Commerson's dolphins without effect. 

Related laws

Argentina Laws (Complete List)

Significant Laws:

Decreto 666, 1997: This “Decreto” regulates Law No. 22,421, relating to the law for conservation of wildlife, emphasizing the management powers of the national enforcement authority through the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development. This regulatory decree also regulates the practice of hunting and creates the National Registry of Hunters. The National Registry of Hunters deals in: sport hunting, commercial hunting, hunting with scientific or educational purposes, and hunting for control of harmful species. Other topics that Decreto 666 regulates include: sanctuaries, breeding stations for wildlife, import, export and interprovincial trade of wildlife and byproducts. In the latter, it is mandatory to register in the corresponding registry of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and to keep books that record the movement of such animals and products. It is also mandatory to supply the reports that are required and to facilitate access at all times of the authorized officials for inspection and control. The law created the Advisory Commission for Wildlife and its Habitat to propose solutions to problems relating to the sustainable use of wild fauna.

Ley 22.421, 1981: Ley 22.421 is the law for the protection of wild fauna. It regulates conservation and the use of the wild fauna in Argentina. This law establishes that the protection of wild fauna is of public interest and therefore all the citizens have the duty to protect it. When a person resulted in harm when executing this duty, they can seek administrative compensation. Article 3 establishes what animals are considered wild fauna, wild animals, wild animals that live under the control of humans, in natural or artificial environments, and domestic animals that, for any reason, return to the wild. Wildlife are deemed to be part of this category in terms of this law, with exception of the animals subject to fishing laws.

Ley 14346, 1954: This law seeks to protect animals against mistreatment and cruel acts. Mistreatment includes cruel acts and is considered a criminal offense, punishable by 15 days to 1 year in prison. Article 2 of this law establishes the acts considered mistreatment, which includes not feeding domestic and captive animals with food in enough quantity and quality. Also included are the acts of forcing animals to work excessive hours without providing adequate rest according to the weather and stimulating them with drugs without pursuing therapeutic purposes, among others. Article 3 defines acts that are considered cruel. These acts include practicing vivisection for purposes that are not scientifically demonstrable, or in places or by people who are not authorized to operate on animals without anesthesia and without the title of doctor or veterinarian, except in cases of emergency.

Related Links - Animal mistreatment - Page in Spanish - "Animals: Living, sentient beings with legal rights. Animal Law Jurisprudence analysis in Argentina" - Article in Spanish 

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