Potential Landmark Pet Custody Case

Do you consider your pets part of the family?

Last month, a landmark case further progressed the position of animals as not property, but something approaching a child – at least when it comes to custody, that is.

In determining how the case was to be handled, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Matthew Cooper took into consideration the fact that pets today, in this case a miniature dachshund named Joey, mean far more than a mere piece of furniture to many.

This quote, from a New York Law Journal article by Tania Karas, describes his thought process:

At issue was whether the dog should be treated as property, as is common in divorce cases involving pets, or whether ownership should be decided through the kind of legal analysis applied in child-custody cases.

“In a case such as this, where two spouses are battling over a dog they once possessed and raised together, a strict property analysis is neither desirable nor appropriate,” Cooper wrote. “Although Joey the miniature dachshund is not a human being and cannot be treated as such, he is decidedly more than a piece of property, marital or otherwise.”

Cooper laid out how he planned to decide the dog’s ownership. The two women and their attorneys then used Cooper’s step-by-step instructions to reach their confidential agreement.

While experts aren’t expecting a complete paradigm shift quite yet, this is absolutely a sign as to the way the legal winds are blowing. At this point, it will only be a matter of years, and maybe less, before we see much more weight given to pet custody decisions, and perhaps even a national standard for such decisions being set.