Wisconsin legislators have introduced a bill that would outline how divorcing couples and the courts should handle custody battles over pets.
This would allow couples to specify visitation rights, the right to move pets out of state, and other pet-related issues. If the couple cannot agree on what to do with the pet, the judge can either choose a spouse to take care of the pet or the pet will be given to a local shelter.
The bill is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. The bill’s lead author, state Rep. Sheryl Albers, says she is pushing the law because of her own husband’s messy divorce. Her husband and his ex-wife fought over who would take care of the family dog. The judge in the case ruled that the dog would split up his time between the two. Albers heard of other similar issues with family pets and decided that the law needed changing.
From San Francisco Chronicle:
States traditionally consider animals to be property, so whichever spouse can establish ownership is granted custody. If ownership cannot be established, judges often try to figure out which person is the better caretaker and give the animal to him or her.
Feuding parties have been known to engage in battles that reflect the intensity usually seen in child-custody disputes.
One of the most famous cases was the divorce of Stanley and Linda Perkins, wealthy San Diegans who made national news over their fight for a pointer-greyhound mix named Gigi.
After two years of vying to become Gigi’s sole custodian, a judge in 2000 gave the dog to Linda. Among evidence shown to the court? A “Day in the Life of Gigi” video, featuring the dog sleeping under her chair at work, cuddling at home and playing fetch at the beach.
And then there was the case of the German shepherd with digestion problems. Each Friday, the husband would pick up the dog for the weekend. Each Sunday afternoon, right before returning the animal to his ex-wife, the man would feed the dog fatty sausages.
“It got messy,” Glowacki said. “We had to specify in court that if he wanted to see the dog, he couldn’t feed it that unless he kept the dog overnight.”