Your pet is not property. You likely consider your pet as part of your family. So, the guardianship of your pet may be a top priority as you begin working through divorce arrangements with your ex-spouse. You may even consider it more important than matters like asset division or alimony.
Currently, there are only three states with laws in the books regarding pet custody following a divorce. Pennsylvania is not one of these states. However, there is a bill in the works that may change that.
If it passes, Pennsylvania House Bill 1432 would bring these factors into a judge’s consideration as they make guardianship decisions:
- Support for the animal’s daily needs
- The caretaking spouse who provides for the animal’s needs and veterinary care
- Who follows state compliance and licensing
- When the pet was obtained – before or during the marriage
- Who can best provide financial support for the pet
The bill does not, however, cover how a guardianship may be handled in the event of a non-marriage split.
Certain issues once the divorce is settled are also not discussed in the bill, such as how visitation may look or even support for that matter, as many bigger pets can be quite costly. In fact, it is estimated that a dog can cost anywhere from $1,400 to $4,300 every year. And many families have more than one pet.
However, the bill does mention enforceable agreements that provide care for the pet. And, should you decide to handle your divorce out of court, you may be able to negotiate with your ex-spouse regarding pet guardianship and caretaking.