Is it just me or does it seem there has been a pet explosion in North America? The American Pet Products Association reports that pet owners spend almost $60 billion dollars a year on pet industry products for their four-legged friends.
There certainly can be no doubt that our pets are a part of the family and like children, they are often overindulged. Little outfits, santa claus hats and hallowe’en costumes for our cats and dogs are old hat, now you can pay for pet massage, pet travel agents who arrange transportation for pets, snake-training for pets, and pet funerals.
Of course, pet owners are now also litigating who gets to keep their beloved animals upon their separation and you’d be amazed how often pets become a major issue in divorce matters. So much so that there are now lawyers who only do “pet law”.
So it is not surprising that several jurisdictions are considering amending their legislation to include laws governing pet custody after marriage breakdown.
Alaska appears to be the first state to introduce a bill that would deem “pets” to be divisible family property upon divorce, with the best interests of the pet as the guiding principle.
Representative Liz Vazquez introduced the bill, with bipartisan co-sponsorships.
The bill defines animal as vertebrates, such as dogs and cats, and specifically excludes fish.
It also would add a pet-related section to the rights of victims of domestic violence, allowing abuse victims to file a petition with the court to obtain custody of an animal living in the same household as the abuser and/or preventing the abuser from disposing of the animal. So many times I have heard stories of pets being abused, stolen, or worse, as retaliation for a relationship gone bad.
With North American’s zest for pets, these laws will likely be introduced in other states and provinces. Needless to say, pet litigation should be avoided and separating pet owners should work out a schedule to accommodate the sharing of their pet. Just like shared parenting!
PS The puppy pictured above is Phoenix, a cockapoo, age 8.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang