Family pet welfare should be a major concern when couples split but all too often pets become a divorce court custody battle. Sensible solutions by a dog "judge", E. Katie Gammill
WHO GETS CUSTODY OF THE PET?
E. Katie Gammill Exhibition Editor / February 2011
The bloom is off the
rose! Divorce court looms. Since you have no children, neither of you
have any intentions of giving up Fido or Fluffy. Add issues such as
division of property, possessions, alimony, and you’re headed for a
major custody battle.
does one place value on a dog/cat that has played an intricate part of both your
lives? The loss of a pet can be physically, mentally, and emotionally
Resentment rears its ugly head when one or the other partner wants full custody
and splitting custody of the family pet(s) isn’t practical. What if the other
party give the dog/cat away to someone else without permission? Although it may
satisfy a need for revenge, it does your pet little good and causes the fur to
Looking at this logically, a document prepared by your lawyer specifying
agreements between the two of you might be in order. Here are some basic
suggestions but other paragraphs may be added that will be legally binding. In
this document, as with children, you list all the specific facts regarding your
Document who has responsibility for food, vet bills,
boarding, grooming, and burial expenses.
If your dog or cat is a
valuable part of a breeding program, will the stud services
be split? If your pet is valuable, who is responsible for
ensuing offspring and who receives monetary disposition from
If one partner cannot give reasonable care for the dog/cat
any longer, dies, or remarries, list the person who will
assume custody of the animal. If your current housing
situation does not allow a dog or cat, both must approve who
is to receive ownership of the pet.
Will the dog or cat be
spayed or neutered IF it is a valuable show animal?
List the breed and a
description, including micro chip or tattoo identification,
name of the pet(s) and photos can be attached to the file.
The other partner in this
issue must give permission if the pet is to be spayed,
neutered, given away, or euthanized.
Who keeps the pet during
vacations? Will the pet be boarded and who is responsible
for the cost?
Set up a visitation
schedule. Determine if your dog can be taken to dog parks or
for walks. Is your cat allowed outside or is it an inside
Often, pets get lost in the
shuffle of separation. Pets, like people, have anxieties. They
suffer from loss of familiar surroundings. This may cause bad
behavior. Dogs have been known to die grieving a master. Some
people leave provisions for their beloved pets in their wills.
Your cat might retaliate by marking or urinating on pillows and
other items to establish hierarchy of its new domain. WHY?
Because it’s a CAT!
Animals may stray or get lost when relocated, so consider your
pet’s welfare. Make sure it is in comfortable, safe
surroundings. Don’t be surprised when new issues surface.
If you lose your dog or cat,
who do you contact?
If your dog or cat scratches
or bites someone, who is responsible?
If your pet is taken to a
humane shelter, what is required to get it back and who
should you contact?
If your pet strays, how can
you legally prove ownership and what is required to do so?
(Reason for micro shipping or tattooing).
If your pet is lonely and
barks or yowls all day and neighbors take legal steps
against you, what is the solution?
Does your lease include pets
and if there’s an extra deposit, who pays?
Do you know the leash or
fence regulations within your new area?
Will your insurance company
cover your breed of dog?
Who pays for pet insurance
(or vet bills)?
Available obedience schools can
give your dog confidence. This will assist in bonding,
adjusting, socializing, and controlling your dog’s adverse
actions due to change. Teach him/her to fetch and retrieve. Keep
your dog busy. Commands are important. Humane equipment should
be used during training and if severe tactics are present, find
another obedience instructor. As for cats, they are independent
and you are on your own.
Don’t let your pet be an “after thought”. If pet issues are
addressed during the divorce proceedings, everyone will have a
clearer understanding of their expectations and responsibilities
and your pet wins! You both want what’s best and a little calm,
rational discussion will insure less stress for you both and a
much happier dog or cat in the long run.
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