A Bone to Pick: Applying a Best Interest of the Family Standard in Pet Custody Disputes
34 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2016
Date Written: February 1, 2016
What happens to companion animals when pet owners divorce? The role of pets in the lives of humans has evolved so drastically that most companion animals are now considered a member of the family. Courts have failed to evolve with these societal changes, many continuing to apply a strict property law analysis. To combat these inequitable outcomes, some courts have tried but failed in applying a de facto “best interest of the pet” analysis. This Article explains in detail why the application of a traditional property law analysis as well as the attempted application of a de facto “best interest of the pet” analysis in pet custody disputes leads to inequitable results.
This Article is the first to propose the application of a “best interest of the family” standard in pet custody disputes. On a case-by-case basis, courts must keep the focus on family members in order to achieve the most equitable outcomes in pet custody disputes. In making pet custody determinations using a “best interest of the family” analysis, courts should consider factors such as child custody orders, lifestyle considerations and the ability to care for the companion animal, and the psychological and emotional needs of companion animal owners. In accordance with the evolving view of companion animals, courts should consider and apply a “best interest of the family” standard when determining the custody of companion animals in order to achieve the most equitable results in pet custody disputes.
Keywords: Animals, Animal Law, Best Interest, Companion Animals, Custody, Custody Disputes, Divorce, Domestic Animals, Family Law, Pets, Pet Custody, Property
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