Animal Law Review

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More than ever, Americans are considering their companion animals to be members of their families. However, the majority of states plainly consider companion animals to be personal property under the law in custody disputes. Therefore, when a pet custody dispute emerges in these states' courts, separated couples proceed to divide companion animals the same way they would other material belongings. At the same time, married couples in the United States are divorcing at increasing rates making these types of pet custody disputes an increasing issue in family courts around the country. Despite most states adopting this approach where companion animals are considered personal property, a small number of states have emerged in the very recent past that take a different approach. In these states, legislation has been expressly passed to either permit or require state courts to consider the well-being of the companion animal when there is a pet custody dispute. This Article provides an overview of the change in public perception towards increasing recognition of companion animal rights while critically examining the current majority view of courts considering companion animals to be personal property during pet custody disputes. This Article further explores all current state legislation from Alaska, Illinois, and California that either permits or requires courts to consider the well-being of companion animals. This Article then advocates for legislation requiring the well-being of companion animals to be considered when pet custody disputes arise.

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