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Canine Rights

Who Keeps the Dog in a Divorce?

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It’s no secret that half of all marriages end in divorce, and that number seems to rise every year. Along with a rise in divorce comes a rise in canine custody battles. In cases of a domestic dispute over the ownership of a pet, courts generally view dogs as property.

In the eyes of the law, pets are defined as property. Therefore, in divorce cases, a judge’s decision about who gets custody of the pet requires no more legal consideration than deciding who gets the barbeque or the Barcalounger.

Unfortunately this is another case of our laws not keeping up with our lifestyles. We don’t view our animals as property, but as family members. There are no laws protecting the family couch from abuse. I don’t snuggle in bed with my teapot.

Rather than viewing our beloved pets as property in the eyes of the law and trying to simply divide them like assets in a divorce, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, ALDF, suggests the courts take other determining factors into consideration.

In determining who should be awarded custody, the court may want to consider which party has paid attention to the animal’s basic daily needs (food, shelter, physical care, exercise, grooming, flea control); who takes the animal to the veterinarian; who provides for social interactions (in the case of dogs) with other dogs and/or with people; who maintains appropriate supervision to assure that state and local regulations are complied with (licensing, not allowing the dog to run free and protecting against circumstances that would endanger her life or health); and who has the greatest ability to financially support the animal.

If you find yourself in a custody battle for your dog, remember that dogs can be emotionally impacted in the same ways that children can in a divorce. If you plan to fight for your dog (as many of us would) be prepared to show evidence of primary care for the dog. And, always remember what is going to be in the dog’s best interest, even if that means letting your ex take ownership.

Have you ever been involved in a canine custody battle? Share your stories with us below.

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  1. Avatar Of Jessica



    Married for 6 years, have been alone four of those years. My husband and I were having problems but I didn't understand how to fight the right way, we fought and he left me without any explanation…I contacted Dr.Mack and explained my marital problem to him and he requested few details of me and my husband, I forwarded it immediately and he said he will get back to me after for further procedure, funny enough he requested little money and I felt this will not work because the money was nothing compare to what i have spent so far with other fake ones, he told me real doctors don’t charge much only fake ones so I forwarded him the money, After few days my husband called me and he apologized, before now, my Man never calls nor return my calls for two 6 years, he drove 3 hour journey to meet me and we had a wonderful time together as one couple, His contact mail is dr_mack@yahoo. com Friends this is no scam, no tricks, He is real

  2. […] Half of all marriages end in divorce so what do you do if you have a beloved pup that both of you want?  Believe it or not more canine cases are being heard in court but unlike children dogs are still viewed as property.  That’s rather sad if you think about it but unfortunately the way it is. Here’s a report from The Dogington Post. […]

  3. […] being said, there are some courts that take a more compassionate stance on the issue of where the pets end up after a divorce but at the end of the day, they are legally defined as property. With a little understanding of […]

  4. Avatar Of Barbara



    When my first husband and I separated I drafted the Separation Agreement from a form, and in it I put that Rudy, our black lab, was staying with me. He had paid the breeder, but I took care of him, and at one point (before we even separated), the ex said “he’s your dog”. Well, fortunately, there wasn’t a battle over him, but I would have fought it. When the ex read the paragraph in the Separation Agreement that Rudy was staying with me, he said “that’s fine – I could never take Rudy from you.” I told him that was absolutely right!!!! I did call him the day that Rudy had to start his journey to Rainbow Bridge (at 11 years of age). We had been divorced for a few years by then, but my neighbor, who had known us both, asked me if I was going to tell him. (He still worked at the same place) I hadn’t planned to, but for some strange reason just thought it was the right thing to do. When I called him and told him what was going on he said he was sorry and asked me if I needed any help getting Rudy to the vet. He wasn’t going to come, he was going to send his Uncle Johnny!!! I told him that I had everything under control. We had gotten Rudy for me when he was working nights, and regardless of the fact that he paid the money, that baby boy was mine. When he was sick and throwing up, I was on my knees beside him in the pouring down rain. When he had surgery because of an intestinal blockage, I called the vet repeatedly checking on him. (He had to stay a few days after the surgery) and when the vet called me at work to ask us to come visit him, I was the one who cried like a baby because my baby was homesick and couldn’t get out of work fast enough to be with him. When we spent a night away from the house, I arranged for friends I trusted to stay with him so he would be properly taken care of and not alone. Like I said, there never was a battle, and I’m glad of that, but I would have fought tooth and nail to keep my Rudy. He never even asked to come visit him!!! I raised him from 9 weeks to 11 years – he was my first dog baby and I treated him like a human baby some said. 🙂 Actually, my sister says I treat my current dogs better than I treat some humans – I told her there’s a good reason for that – I love my dogs more than I love some humans. 🙂

    • Avatar Of Bridget



      The only thing that my brother ever said unkind about his ex-wife was how heartbroken he was that she didn’t let him know when”super dog” Erin passed away.

  5. Avatar Of Lisa



    I was in a 14 yr relationship. I had to take action, so I left in the middle of the day. Yes, I took my 9 yr old min pin and my 5 yr old rat terrier mix. Those were my children. I had my vet write letters for me to present to tha family court judge as well as the bills going back for as long as I had them (Their entire lives). I had 2 check ups before court, “just in case”. Jan 25, 2012 was the lat time I saw them. I heard that my minpin had passed within 6 mos of my relinquishing. Actually I had dreams that became repeated and constant. I called people. An old employer of his told me my little Enzo passed away. Now he has an idiot living with him and I haven’t seen Diego in 2 years. We only live about a mile apart, but I’m not allowed to see him. To top it off, I got my domestic violence petition, yet no dogs, even after all my evidence and my tales of cruelty to a 20lb and a 30lb baby! I’m still sick. I’ll never see Enzo again and I feel Diego needs to finis his years out with me. I appealed to circuit court and civil suit…. Lost them all to a jerk!

  6. Avatar Of Gretchen



    Wondering if the name on the dog license makes a difference. I’m not married but have a long time boyfriend. Both dogs are licensed in my name so I assumed that legally they would be my ‘property’.

  7. Avatar Of Chantal



    I divorced in 2011 and we wanted shared custody of our dog. The judge kept sending the divorce document back and wanted the clause out. By the time things were finalized, our dog had passed away since she was very old, so we finally agreed to have the clause removed. In the meantime, we were both respectful of her and of each other, and each had her for a full week. This was in Montreal, Canada.

  8. Avatar Of Maria West

    Maria West


    my husband can have everything BUT THE DOG

  9. Avatar Of Maggie maggie says:

    Yes, just recently.
    My mother got to keep me and my father was denied visitation. He also has to pay 200 CHF per month for my upkeep.
    The courts in Vaud, Switzerland will actually listen and decide the fate of dogs here.
    The lawyers actually argued cases on my behalf. I actually blogged about it on my site.
    This is still very fresh, due to it only happened in May 2012. We have been keeping a log on how I have be reacting emotionally.

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