A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jan 30, 2017

Alaska is First State to Consider Well Being of Pets in Divorce Proceedings

Animals are legally considered property despite the fact that said designation often feels weird. It feels weird because both the humans and the animals can feel love, can hurt, can grieve and can suffer. No matter how much you love your car, your car can neither love you back nor suffer if you don't gas it up.

The courts and legislators struggle with this all the time as there is a universal recognition that animals are a unique form of property. Hence, animal welfare laws prohibit humans from treating their pets poorly and can actually prohibit some offenders from having pets at all. California was an early adopter of a set of statutes that permitted pets to be listed on restraining orders in cases of domestic violence. This was revolutionary at the time as doing so was akin to ordering someone to remain 100 yards from a stereo!

Alaska is the first state to go even further and now requires that in divorce proceedings judges may decide the issue of custody of the pets based upon "the well-being of the animal" rather than merely looking at who purchased the pet as one might look at a house or furniture. In other words, courts may analyze pet custody issues in an analogous manner to child custody disputes in that single or joint custody will be awarded based on the pet's needs rather than those of the humans.

Like infants, pets can't testify as to their preferences. I bet there will be some interesting witnesses and other evidentiary offerings to help the judge determine the issue and make a just and righteous call.

Stay tuned ....

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea. There should also be a MANDATORY spay/neuter law in all states for both cats AND dogs.