Massachusetts readers may have heard of an unusual case centered on the struggle over the care and custody of a shared pet. The dog, a miniature dachshund named Joey, was a pet in the home of a gay couple. When the two women decided to divorce, “custody” of Joey became a central issue. The judge presiding over the divorce agreed to schedule a separate hearing for the purposes of determining where Joey would reside, which marked a highly unusual approach to this form of property division.
In many cases, judges refuse to hear arguments over which party will retain the family pets. In other cases, animals are treated as another form of property, and decisions are made based on which party acquired the animal or paid for its care. Very rarely is the issue given significant time in court, making this case highly unusual.
Unfortunately for those who looked to the case to present a landmark decision on the issue, the couple was able to settle the matter outside of court. Joey will remain in the care of the woman who received him as a gift from her spouse. There is no mention of whether his other “mother” will be allowed to visit with him.
Even though this case did not result in a hearing, pet lovers and animal rights activists still view the matter as a victory. The judge was at least willing to hear the argument, suggesting a shift away from treating animals in the same manner as furniture or real estate. Pet owners in Massachusetts who are facing divorce should be aware that not every court is willing to consider the issue in such detail.
Source: New York Post, Dog fight over in dachshund custody battle, Julia Marsh, Dec. 10, 2013