Manon Vogt: Where does the dog go after a divorce? This is what I wanted to know

Literature search, experimentation in the lab or work with SPSS? Students of Tilburg University write dissertations of the most diverse. Univers highlights one each month in the master’s thesis section. This time: Five questions for Manon Vogt. She studied law and was curious as to whether a dog could be divided in the same way as a chair or television after a divorce.

Illustration: Jeroen de Leger

Where did the inspiration for your thesis topic come from?

“My whole family loves my parents’ dog very much. At the kitchen table, for fun, we have more than once had a theoretical discussion about who should take the dog “Boris” with us after a possible divorce. We hope that this will not happen, of course! You can make arrangements for a visit for a child, but what About a dog? Would you divide it like you would divide household furniture? When I was asked to come up with a dissertation topic, this question immediately came to my mind.”

What did you search?

“In 2013, the so-called ‘property law status’ of an animal was included in the Civil Code. This is provided for in section 3:2a of the Dutch Civil Code. This section of the law is one of the implications of the Animal Law Framework Act. But I think That this article is really still in its infancy. On the one hand, it says that animals are ‘not commercial’, and therefore not like a book or a cupboard or a chair. But it follows from this that animals can be regarded as trade, subject to various values ​​such as public order and morality benign.

“I wanted to know whether the wording of Article 3:2a DCC was clear enough for Dutch jurisprudence, and whether the entry into force of this new legal article in Dutch property law made a difference to the distribution of dogs after the break-up of a loving relationship. Choice of Dogs Not a coincidence, by the way, since I have a dog myself.

Manon Vogt. Photo: Jack Tommers

Research shows that humans and dogs are actually capable of building an emotional bond. The owner produces the hormone oxytocin when he sees his dog. This is not the case with many other animals, which is why my master’s thesis research is not simply about all pets and animals, such as a goldfish or a parrot.”

How do you deal with that?

“I did three things. First of all, I looked at the intent of the legislature. What was the basic idea of ​​the legislator when this new section of the law was drawn up and put into effect? ​​The Animal Law Framework Act is about recognizing the intrinsic value of an animal. According to this law, animals are to be treated As sentient beings.When I approach DCC Article 3:2a in this context, I have come to the conclusion that the legislator has not done his duty well enough: the wording is too contradictory.

I also compared Dutch legal material and context with that in Belgium. The Belgian legal system is similar to ours, including civil law. Finally, I studied jurisprudence. Did this new article of the law lead to a difference in case law? Are the judges doing something different now? Since 2013, do they consider the animal more as a sentient being? “

What are your most striking observations?

“The increase in court decisions that took into account the intrinsic value of a dog is – statistically – only four percent. This is disappointing, because when a new law comes into effect people always hope for a greater social impact. I am convinced this is because Article 3 :2a The DCC is open to multiple interpretations, which is precisely why there is so much difference in the way different justices rule on the division of property after the breakup of a romantic relationship.

“In 2016, the judge took into account the stress level of the dog in question. In fact, the judgment of a canine behavior expert was taken into account. Who was the dog happiest with? This is in contrast to the judge’s consideration in 2014, where the judge opted for a more rigorous approach and equated A dog with a book, a bookcase, or a TV The dog was only a ‘commodity’ and therefore had to be assigned to the person who owned the animal in question Two similar situations, but very different considerations and outcomes.

In short: the basic framework law for animal law is a great development for further recognition of the intrinsic value of the animal. But it is not enough, because of the multi-interpretation of the wording, the recognition of animal rights in the Netherlands is still in its infancy. Animals are more than just a trade, that they have biological sensitivities and needs.”

Do you have any tips for aspiring dissertation writers?

“When I told them at home what kind of thesis I was going to write, my father said, ‘Isn’t that a bit childish for a master’s thesis? But I think you should always choose a topic that is close to you and that you are personally involved in, precisely because it is your master’s thesis. You don’t want to end your hard work for the past four years with a boring topic that you won’t remember later, do you?


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