I’ve written extensively about how the law looks as pets — basically as property. The NJ Supreme Court had another opportunity to revisit this concept. The outcome: pets are still property.
The case is Samolyk v. Berthe III. Defendant’s dog fell into a body of water and the owner yelled for help to rescue the dog. Plaintiff, a neighbor of the defendant, jumped into the water to help successfully rescue the dog but plaintiff was injured in the process. The Samolyks sued under the rescue doctrine, which (as quoted from Ruiz v. Mero) “provides a source of recovery to one who is injured while undertaking the rescue of another who has negligently placed himself in peril.”
Courts have long distinguished between the rescue of a person and the rescue of property under this legal doctrine. The NJ Supreme Court could have elevated pets above a level of property but they chose not to. The Court did slightly expand the concept to include rescuing property that might be connected to rescuing a person, such as putting out a house fire where there is a reasonable belief someone is inside the house.
So your pet, while adored, is still no different than a toaster under law.
If you are divorcing or are dissolving a relationship and have a pet involved, consider mediation where pets can be like children. Mediation is all about the needs of the parties. The law doesn’t necessarily care about your needs (children excepted). Contact me to learn more about mediation.