New legislation in Alaska took effect January 17 that amends current divorce laws and will now consider the well-being of pets when determining their placement following a split.
Alaska is the first state to implement these types of considerations, which are comparable to child custody by taking into account the best interest of companion animals.
Pets are traditionally treated as property in divorce procedings and their placement is approached in the same way a car or a valuable painting would be but now, under Alaskan state law, joint custody arrangements are available.
“As animals’ social status has evolved, courts nationwide have struggled with the pets-as-property idea,” said Kathy Hessler, director of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. “The parties involved often want decisions on custody, visitation and even monetary support for a pet.”