Pet Custody Disputes
For many people, pets play an important role in the family: protector, children’s playmate, exercise buddy and best friend. When a couple can no longer make their relationship work and living apart is inevitable, the pets are often caught in the middle. According to American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2012 there were more than 43 million households with dogs and 36 million households with cats in the United States. That doesn’t include households with bird, horses or other types of animals.
In Arizona, Courts regard dogs, cats, fish, birds, horses and other pets as property, despite the importance and value we place upon them. Courts are increasingly faced with the task of determining where the pets will be placed and with whom when couples split up. This is especially true if each person claims to be the owner of the pet and requests the Court to award it to them. If “ownership” isn’t clear, some Courts have attempted a “joint” or shared ownership similar to a child’s parenting plan. With a pet custody plan, the owners would have the pet with them for certain days or weeks and then the pet would alternate to the other owner. Those arrangements are often short lived and eventually one party will be declared the owner of the pet.