How does the law look at pets? Traditionally, many cases have stated that pets are property, just like the couch the pets sleeps on. This offends the many people who think of their pets as children, as a part of the family. The bond between pet and owner(s) can be very strong.
Today, the Supreme Court of Georgia is hearing a case about whether a pet has value beyond being property. Attorneys Elizabeth and Robert Monyak boarded their dachshund Lola at a kennel. They allege the kennel mistakenly gave Lola medication that caused her kidneys to shut down and eventually led to her death. They are suing for the $67,000 in medical treatment (including dialysis). The kennel denies they did anything wrong and that even if they did, Lola was a rescue dog that the plaintiffs paid nothing for, did nothing to improve her value so was basically worth nothing and thus there are no damages.
“Their position is that a dog is like a toaster,” Elizabeth Monyak said. “When you break it, you throw it away and get a new one. A dog is indeed property under the law, but it’s a different kind of property.”
It will be interesting to see how the Court rules.
When a couple divorces and they have a pet, how does the court look at the “custody” of the pet? Generally, it is property and treated not much differently than the toaster. Someone will be given the toaster as equitable distribution. One nice thing about divorce mediation is that we are not purely bound by the law. In the divorce mediation, your pets can be treated like a child/family member with custody arrangement and “pet support”. Some clients do not care about their pets that strongly and the one that does have a strong bond usually retains the pet. Others do enter into custody and visitation arrangements, or they work that out informally if they are amicable. Some clients keep the pet with their child(ren). The court will certify pet custody in the marital settlement agreement if they couple so agrees.