PET CUSTODY IN A COURT OF LAW, Peoria, AZ – Arrowhead Pooper Scoopers

When a divorce is imminent assets are divided, homes are sold and custody is decided in the best interest of the children. But what about pets, what’s in their best interest? In the state of Illinois it’s now up to the court system to decide who gets visitation rights to pets that are considered to be companion animals to both parties involved.

The new law took effect January 1, 2018 and it gives a presiding judge legal authority to consider the well-being of any animal involved in the dissolution of a marriage.

According to the Chicago Tribune cases of custody battles concerning pets have been on the rise in recent years. Two-income couples that have no children put all of their time and attention into their pets and both become attached.

While many couples are able to reach an agreement outside the courtroom some are not. When a pet custody case does reach the courtroom, the new state law offers judges guidance on how to handle the situation placed before them. Instead of giving a pet to one side or the other, a judge may decide on shared custody or as it’s called by the courts, joint ownership.

Other cities and states have passed similar laws as well.  Alaska and Rhode Island have laws that are similar to the one recently passed in Illinois but it only applies to pets that are considered marital assets. In the case of a service animal, for example, the pet is required to stay with its’ companion.

In Arizona family court, pet custody cases are often less formal than those involving children. If both parties involved  cannot agree on who will do the pet parenting a family court judge will most likely designate one person as the owner of the pet(s).

If there are an equal number of pets living in the household this makes pet parenting easier to decide. In the case of two dogs, each person takes one dog. In the case of both dogs and cats, one person might be granted the dogs while the other is granted the cats.

Like children, however, pets are often used as pawns when couples decide a divorce is necessary. When one half of the couple causes a stir about the pet in question the courts may decide who gets custody based on certain factors:

  • Who provided the majority of care
  • Which one bought the food, treats and toys
  • Who took the pet to the veterinarian

If both parties are able to come to terms on agreements, then the judge may put into place a visitation schedule. While visitation schedules for pets are less structured then those involving children many still take them seriously.

Within Maricopa County over half a million households own one or more dogs and nearly just as many own at least one cat. While pet custody isn’t written into Arizona law, just yet, the effort is beginning to gain some ground. According to judges are now starting to consider pet custody a real issue. It’s now taken as seriously as the custody of children when it comes to divorce.

This may be due in part, to the fact that there are legal similarities between pets and children as decided by family law:

Children and pets have similar needs such as food, shelter, and care

Minor children and pets cannot take care of themselves

Children and pets need adult humans to thrive and grow

The best interest of children and pets is also decided by the following:

Touch, nurture and emotional support


Bathing/Grooming/Bathroom Needs


Safety, seat belts, and car seats

Medical Care

If you do find yourself going through a divorce where pets are involved it’s best not to handle it on your own. A family law judge has many factors to consider when it comes to divorce or separation and many don’t understand what’s involved when it comes to custody of a pet. In Arizona, contact Joan Bundy, of Joan Bundy Law as she is recognized for her knowledge of Arizona animal law. She can be reached at (480) 463-4600 or at


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admin January 19, 2018 Blog - Tags: , , , , , ,