The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association claims Americans own some 43.5 million dogs and 90.5 million cats. Everyone knows that these animal companions become very special in the hearts of their owners, so that when a marriage ends in divorce, some spouses turn to the courts for possession of the family dog or cat.
As much as dogs and cats are loved, pets are not children. Courts do not decide custody and visitation for the furry children (as pets are some times called), so there is no ‘best interest of the animal’ standard. Courts treat animal companions as personal property, which means the owners must decide which of them gets Fido the dog or Rufus the cat. When the court determines that an animal is marital property or property, it considers which spouse would better care for the animals and which one really had greater attachment to the pet.
Like custody battles, possession of the dog or cat makes for heated divorce negotiations, and because they view Fido or Rufus as part of the family, many spouses battle over them. In deciding the possession of a beloved animal, the owners should consider who took most care of the pet and the place of the pet in the lives of any children.