Pets have become part and parcel of the family in many UK homes. The pertinent question in the case of a divorce being the custody of the pets. A survey in 2011 in the UK revealed that 20 per cent of separating couples with pets have sought legal advice and fought for custody of their pet when their relationship broke down.
Deborah Rook, of the Northumbria University School of Law, writes in the academic paper International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family; of the need to consider how the family pet has come to mean a fully considered family member. Till now the law has placed property law as the legal decider of who gets to keep the family pet. The difference seen in US law is such where “best interests of the animal” test is applied, as part of the legal consideration.
When discussing the issues around our current law, Deborah writes: “Domestic animals are the same as chairs and tables. It shouldn’t just be based on property; there needs to be other considerations when deciding who the pet should go to.”
The article makes clear how pets are not the same as children, but how the legal consideration of what’s best for the pet should be applied when considering the pet’s ownership. As seen with the placement of children involved in family separations.
Pets really are part of the family, but sometimes families break up. In this situation who really does get the dog?