Deciding who will get the pets after a divorce can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce case. However, the battle over pets is not a custody battle. Even if you consider your pets to be your children, the law does not see it that way. Rather, Georgia law, as well as the law of many other states, considers pets to be property. But this certainly does not mean that a dog should be treated like a piece of furniture, as divorce can take a toll on a pet. A recent article on Huffington Post addresses this issue. Who Gets the Pets In A Divorce? What You Need to Consider When Fighting Over Fido, By Maria Moya, huffingtonpost.com, January 19, 2014.
In that article, Nancy Peterson, an issues specialist with the Humane Society of the United States, gives examples of the emotional toll a divorce can take on a pet: an energetic dog can become depressed, the dog may sleep more or eat less, the dog may become less interested on going on walks or playing, the dog may have accidents in the house, the dog may bite/groom himself excessively. So what can be done to help the pet through this difficult transition? The article offers some suggestions, many of which are similar things to think about in a child custody case:
1. Decide what is best for your pet. Though the courts do not consider the best interest of the pet in determining who will get the pet post-divorce, that does not mean that you and your spouse cannot. Think about who the primary caregiver of the pet has been and who has the means to financially support the dog on his/her own.
2. Consider keeping the pet in the family home with the children, if possible. The more familiar the surroundings and routine, the better.
3. If there is more than one pet, try to keep the pets together. Again, familiarity with surroundings and routine are best.
4. Spend time with your pets. Like children, they need to know that they are still loved and cared for post-divorce.
5. Take your pet to the veterinarian regularly to make sure all is physically ok.