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Divorce: who gets the dog?

The number of pets getting caught in the middle of divorce cases continues to grow.
The number of pets getting caught in the middle of divorce cases continues to grow.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Breaking up is hard to do, and divorce is continually growing among married couples. Today, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the US end in divorce. For those with children, talks of custody are a big concern in divorce cases. But what about pet custody? USA Today reported on Sunday, Aug. 24, that our furry friends are progressively getting caught in the middle of divorce cases.

The Humane Society of the United States stated that in 2012 there were about 179 million dogs and cats in US homes. We, in the US, are very fond of our pets, and taking care of them can be costly. A routine veterinary visit for your dog will cost you an average of $231; for cats the average is $193. Last year it was expected that we would spend $6.9 billion on Halloween pet costumes alone.

When it comes to divorce, many things have to come into account for pet owners: who has funded the pet, who has taken care of it and what would be in the best interest of the pet? Although many pet owners dub their furry companions as their “children,” they are not treated as such under the law. Pets are categorized as personal property in every state. Vicki Ziegler, from the show "Untying the Knot", said that pets are a big concern for a couple divorcing, but are not seen as such.

Ziegler shared in her blog that “... conflicts over pets can be just as important to divorcing spouses as any issue when both spouses have developed a special connection to a furry friend that they love and care for day-in and day-out. This feeling can be even greater when the couple has no children and the animal has taken on the role of the couple's 'child.'”

These battles can and have gotten very serious. In 2012, a New York man spent over $60,000 on his custody battle for his dog after he stated that his ex “dognapped” his companion. It is unclear if he has received pet custody or not.

To avoid this situation with your furry family member, there have been additions to prenuptial called "pre-pups." These are meant to make pet custody easier for the couple in the future, should they divorce. Ziegler has also noted that many couples have opt to go the route of shared custody with a visitation schedule. These owners break down everything from veterinarian visits to the pet’s diet.

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