A legal academic has called for greater focus on the best interests of the animals caught up in pet custody disputes.
Writing in The International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Deborah Rook notes that many people form close emotional bonds with their pets and see them as members of their families. Despite this, under English law pets are typically regarded as property and the courts apply property law to disputes.
But a different approach to the issue has been pioneered in other countries. Rook cites the United States and Israel as examples, where a legal test based on the best interests of the animal is used alongside property law when estranged couples argue over their one-time pets.
The academic refers to the legislation on the best interests of children and calls for the development of a new legal test in English law in which best interests are prioritised over property considerations.