New California Law Considers Dogs Of Divorce As Family Members

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
California has joined two other states in America that adopted laws considering dogs to be family members and not property if ever a dispute in court occurs.

While you’ve probably heard about how California became the first state in the country to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs unless they came from shelters or rescue groups, they also enacted another law animal welfare advocates are praising.

Now, if ever a couple who jointly own a dog should divorce, in California, the dogs will be considered family members and not property. This is thanks to California Assembly Bill 2274 that Governor Jerry Brown signed and went into effect on the first of January.

Related: Alaska Becomes First State To Pass Provision For Pets Of Divorce

The law allows judges to consider the pets as they would a family member the couple was seeking custody of, and the disputing owners can agree to and be granted ‘joint custody’ of the dog.

Those in favor of the law consider it a huge win for animal welfare, saying that the law considers what may be in the best interest of the dog as much as it does his humans. Additionally, it recognizes that much as with human children, pet ‘parents’ often equally love and adore their dog and that is taken into account when dissolving human relationships.

Judges would look at several factors, including original ‘owner’ of the dog, but would also look at who the dog’s primary caregiver is, as well as what’s in the best interest of the dog–for instance, where he may have a bigger yard, access to amenities, etc.

Related: Therapy Dogs Could Be Helping Lawyers Mediate Divorces

Alaska became the first state in the country to consider pets’ wellbeing when looking at divorce settlements in 2017, with Illinois following suit last year. Now, California joins the group and animal welfare advocates hope it’s a trend that will continue.

With over 2/3 of American households having pets and spending nearly $70 billion a year on their care, we guess that it won’t be long for other states to follow, and that’s a very good thing!

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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