Pet Custody Disputes
When multiple people claim rightful ownership of an animal, a court-based resolution can be difficult to come by. For example, if an individual makes a verbal agreement with her neighbor to care for her dog while she is away, the neighbor might refuse to return the animal on the grounds that no end date was specified in their agreement.
Animals as Personal Property
In the case of a divorce, many pet owners wish to treat their pets much like children, asking for joint custody or visitation rights. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, pets are considered personal property. Therefore, the issue of animal custody must be handled as a property dispute; privileges like visitation and joint custody cannot apply like they would in the case of a child.
As property, the worth of a pet is considered to be its fair market value, or the price it could reasonably fetch if it were sold to a neutral buyer. This means that, even if the court rules in favor of one party, it may simply order a payment of the animal’s cash value instead of an actual change of custody.
Fighting for custody of your pet
As one of Ohio’s leading animal law firms, Holland & Muirden has developed a reputation for expertise in animal custody law. Despite the legal status of animals as property, we understand that your pets represent a unique and irreplaceable value to you. Our attorneys will use their knowledge of Ohio case law to strengthen your custody claim, and fight to have your pet legally returned to you as quickly as possible.
Building your case
To convince a court of your right to custody, the following issues may be considered:
- Who was the primary caregiver for the animal?
- Where has the animal been housed, and for how long?
- Who initially purchased or adopted the animal?
- What expenses (food, veterinary care, grooming) were paid by each party?
- If the animal underwent any special training that might add to its value, who did the training and/or paid for the training to take place?
- Do you rely on the animal for therapeutic or disability assistance?
- Who was responsible for giving the animal food, medicine, and exercise on a daily basis?
- Are there any texts, emails, letters, or written communication that relate to the animal’s care or the origin of the dispute?
- Was any issue of care or ownership addressed in a written or verbal contract?
- Is there any documentation of pedigree, medical status, or special training that could be used in determining the animal’s fair market value?
- If the animal was transferred or entrusted to a third party at any time, were you notified? Did you give consent? What were the terms of the arrangement?