Many parties suffer in divorces, but the laws governing ownership of pets are not keeping pace with the rise of animal custody disputes. In California and elsewhere, pets are considered property and are subject to the same rules. As a result, pets may have the same rights as a sofa and judges often have a lot of leeway in how they rule who gets to keep Fido or Tabby. And divorces aren’t the only cases of contested ownership. A recent court case in California involves a French bulldog named Stitch who was given to another family under a false pretense. A bitter court case ensued and after years in the courts and thousands of dollars in legal fees an appeal is pending. Stitch may not live long enough to know which home his forever home is.
Many people treat their pets like members of their family, so how should laws change to reflect the new reality? Have you ever fought over who got to keep the pets?
Christine Garcia, vegan animal rights attorney based in San Francisco, CA
Michael Chill, animal trainer and behaviorist; author of Puppybook and columnist for the Animal Press
Steven M. Wise, president of the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights, Inc. and director of its Nonhuman Rights Project; author of Rattling The Cage: Toward Legal Rights For Animals