Dog Custody in Divorce

Nancy Rogowski

            When married couples divorce, who gets to keep the dog?  Under the law, dogs are considered to be personal property, and no matter how loved dogs are, they are not treated like children under the law.  Many judges do not want to get involved in pet disputes. The family pet sometimes becomes a powerless victim of the breakup.  Recently, courts have been ruling dog custody at other forms than property.  In the New York Post on December 4, 2013 there was an article about a pair of divorcing women about to fight it out in court over a miniature dachshund named Joey.  It will be New York’s first matrimonial pet-custody case.  The attorney for one of the women, Sherri Donovan said, “It recognizes the special place of pets in our families.”  JoeyStanding.JPG

Manhattan Justice Matthew Cooper opines in his ruling granting the women oral arguments.  According to the article, the only bone of contention in their divorce is who will get sole custody of their 2-year-old pet, Joey.  One of the women gave Joey as a gift to the other women, which she claims always sleeps on her side of the bed.  Judge Cooper notes that New York law lags behind other states’ legal standing of their pets, and that “most pet owners would not trade their pets for even $1 million in cash.”  The judge will schedule a hearing to determine Joey’s fate, instead of regarding him like a piece of property.  Judge Cooper wants to hear the truth about who bore the major responsibility for meeting Joey’s needs.  He will be asking questions such as: “Who spent more time with Joey on a regular basis?”  The judge says, “…there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet.”  The parties are still working out a date for the hearing.  Continue reading