What to do if you are involved in a custody battle over your companion animal
PET CUSTODY: FIGHTING OVER FIDO
ALDF Suggests: What to do if you are involved in a custody battle over
your companion animal
If you are involved in a custody dispute, or if such a
dispute is likely, it is suggested that you seek the counsel of an attorney who
can advise you as to a strategic approach for a resolution that serves the best
interests of the animal concerned.
Since animals are considered property in the eyes of the
law, it may be helpful to offer proof that you were the one who adopted the animal,
or if the animal was purchased, that you were the one who purchased the animal.
If you were not the one who originally brought the animal
home, do not give up. There are other ways that may be helpful in
substantiating your claims of being primary caregiver of the animal and thus the
one who should be awarded custody, despite the fact that you did not adopt or
purchase the animal. Information that may help to validate your claims as
primary caregiver would be receipts for veterinary care, licensing records,
receipts for grooming, dog training classes, food, and other items purchased
for the companion animal.
If your neighbors saw that you were always the one who
walked your dog or took him/her to the park, they may be useful witnesses who
can confirm your consistent interaction with the animal and therefore be
helpful to your case.
Although animals are considered property in the eyes of the
law at this time, some courts are beginning to recognize that one’s
relationship with this particular form of property known as the family cat,
dog, bird etc., is much different from one’s relationship with other
forms of property such as your couch, your watch or your coffee pot. For more
information regarding the changing legal spectrum in handling disputes over a
companion animal’s custody, check out ALDF’s article “Lawyers Must Plan for
More Pet Custody Cases.”
Lastly, be sure to ask your attorney if alternative dispute
resolutions such a mediation or arbitration (which some states may require if a lawsuit is filed) may
provide you with the opportunity to more fully present the information you want to convey as to
why you should get custody of the animal concerned.
For additional information about pet custody disputes, watch our video:
Pet Custody Disputes: A Legal Primer
If you are an
attorney handling a pet custody case:
ALDF may be able to file an amicus curiae brief in your case, arguing that the best interests
of the animal involved be considered in determining custody. Email us if you are an attorney requesting this type of assistance.
If you need an attorney, please see our section on
finding an attorney.