Animals in court

Judge accepts cats as plaintiffs in court case

For the first time in Brazil, non-human animals are allowed to be plaintiffs in a court case involving 23 cats, a cat advocate and two real estate developers.

23 cats are leading a small legal revolution for animals in Brazil

Image: Camila Danta

Perhaps for the first time in Brazilian history, a judge has allowed non-human animals to  start a lawsuit against a private party. The plaintiffs in question demand compensation in a case of abuse against 23 cats in Salvador, in the northeast of Brazil.

The lawyers in charge of the case, Yuri Fernandes Lima and Ximene Peres, say “this is an innovation on the juridic front, paving the way for a paradigm shift that will make it easier for non-humans to achieve justice,” they say.

According to Fernandes, “Judge Rodrigues said the animals can start legal actions when represented by their guardians. He recognized that animals can be in court pleading for their rights if represented by their guardians, similarly to minors or mentally disabled people.”

The case is related to an event that took place in late 2019 and only recently came to fruition.

Animal advocate Camila Dantas looked after a 20-cat colony who had occupied an empty plot for 20 years.

She was caught by surprise when she learned about a new development on the site after it had been bought by two real estate companies.

Building work was scheduled for early January. Camila met with company directors to re-home the animals. She asked them to cover transport and maintenance costs in a ranch near the colony.

However,  she couldn’t reach an agreement with them. Besides, she was prevented from feeding the animals.

Work started with machines, trucks and builders coming into the area, which caused the death of a kitten.

“That is when we filed a legal action asking for a solution as well as a compensation for animal abuse. The 23 remaining cats appear as plaintiffs. In case of a positive outcome, Camila will manage the fund in her capacity as their guardian,” the lawyer says.

“Part of the demands from the action has been met. The developers removed the cats from the land and placed them in a shelter, as Camila had asked them to. But before they did that, they took them to a clinic to neuter and spay them and two kittens died because they were too weak to be neutered,” he adds.

The next stage of the action is the compensation. It is related to the fact the companies did not provide basic care such as food. Besides, they prevented Camila from feeding the animals. The compensation also covers the death of the kitten that occurred before building work started and the other animals for negligence.

The case goes on.

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