Pet Custody Cases

15 Jul

In the International Journal of Law Policy and the Family UK academic Deborah Rook has published an article entitled “Who gets Charlie – the emergence of pet custody disputes in family law – the adoption of theoretical tools from child law”. The article is very good and analyses the use of pseudo child law principles in determining pet custody cases in both Israel and the USA.

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Pet Custody Cases?
In the International Journal of Law Policy and the Family UK academic Deborah Rook has published an article entitled “Who gets Charlie – the emergence of pet custody disputes in family law – the adoption of theoretical tools from child law”. The article is very good and analyses the use of pseudo child law principles in determining pet custody cases in both Israel and the USA.

Pets, whether they are dogs, cats, rodents or horses; are all “property” in the eyes of the UK Courts. Their ownership, and thus “custody”, on divorce are determined by the principles of property law and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. There is no room for any consideration of animal welfare or to think of the future harm or benefit that may come to any particular animal. There is no “best interests of the animal” test.

The article by Deborah Rook outlines the freestanding pet custody cases that have been heard in both Israel and the USA. The Courts in those cases looked at the pets more as “family members”. They were considered as independent and sentient beings which had emotional bonds with their human carers. There was an interest in avoiding the animal suffering or potentially suffering harm. The Courts in those cases adopted the best interests of the animal test and incorporated that alongside having to consider the animal under solely property law principles. Thus the tests applied by the Courts in the USA and Israel was first to look at basic property law and then second to look at the best interests of that particular animal in determining where it should live and thus who should have ownership. 

There is a lack of precedent and academic guidance for this two stage test to be applied in UK Courts however the incidence of animals being seem as part of the matrimonial property on a UK divorce will mean that sooner or later the Courts will have to adjudicate on the custody and ownership of Fido, Rover, Tom or Jerry.

The article by Deborah Rook is available through a, link on Family Law Week.

Dylan Morgan

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