Alaska: Pet animals’ well-being now considered in court
While custody battles typically treat pet animals as property, H.B. 0147 has set a new precedent in divorce court. This makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. (This law excludes fish).
According to the recent Washington Post article, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.”
Also, according to David Favre, a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law, stated, “For the first time, a state has specifically said that a companion animal has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property — that the court may award custody on the basis of what is best for the dog, not the human owners.”
The former representative Liz Vazquez and the late representative Max Gruenberg, a Democrat and family lawyer, sponsored the Alaska amendment.
“Our pets are members of our families,” Vazquez, who lost her bid for reelection in November, said in a statement last year. “We have to remember that we’re sent here to Juneau to represent people; real human beings, many of whom have pets they love as much as their friends and family.”
It is exciting to see the well-being of pet animals being considered in these types of cases, which are life-changing for the pet animals, too. It will be interesting to see if any other states, in the near future, follow suit.