For most people, pets are like family. Pet owners care about their pets’ wellbeing as they would their own children’s. However, until recently, divorce laws in New York have treated pets as property – to be allocated to one spouse or the other, just like a table or blender.
But thanks to a new law, New York has recently become one of the first states in the country to approach pet custody differently: with a focus on what is best for the pet.
What is the new law?
In October of last year, Governor Kathy Hochul signed Assembly Bill 5775/Senate Bill 4248 into law. The law enables family courts to treat pets more like children in custody decisions – considering what arrangement is in the best interest of the pet. The court will take into consideration such factors as:
- Who most often fed the pet
- Who usually took the pet to the veterinarian
- Who spent the most time with the pet
In addition, the law is intended to avoid situations where disgruntled exes use their pets as pawns – to the detriment of the pet’s health and safety. In the past, there have been cases of domestic abuse where one spouse deliberately harmed a pet in order to cause emotional harm to their spouse. This law would help to prevent pet owners with a history of animal abuse from gaining custody.
New York joins just a handful of other states that have enacted similar pet custody laws in recent years. It marks a positive step for pet lovers, giving them a higher likelihood of being able to keep their companion animal in the event of a divorce.