US law would include pet welfare in divorce proceedings

Divorce|March 19th 2015

A proposed new law would require Alaskan family courts to consider the welfare of pets when hearing divorce and domestic violence cases.

The bill, introduced in the state legislature earlier this week, was designed to discourage the use of pets as emotional leverage in acrimonious break-ups. Judges would need to specifically consider whether the current arrangements for family pets were in the animal’s best interests, and would also amend current legislation on domestic violence to insist on care and protection for family pets along with the person fleeing violence.

The owners of neglected animals seized by the authorities would also have to cover the cost of their care in shelters.

The bill was co-authored by Liz Vasquez, an attorney and Republican Representative for state capital Anchorage. She said pets were an increasingly common target of vengeful spouses and domestic abusers.

“More and more animals are used by an abuser for punishment, manipulation or revenge against a victim. They will threaten to kill, maim or torture a pet to gain control over the family.”

She added:

“Victims and children would hesitate to leave an abusive relationship or abusive environment for fear of leaving behind their pets. We can stop that.”

In July 2013, one of the first domestic violence shelters in the United States for people with pets was opened in New York City.

To date, 13 of Vasquez’s fellow representatives have expressed support for the bill.

 Photo by Kerri Lee Smith via Flickr

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