Dogs and divorce

Family|March 19th 2016

Dogs and other pets are often affected by family breakups, an animal behaviourist has claimed.

Australian Kate Mornement holds a BSC in zoology and a PHD in canine behaviour. Speaking to ABC News, she said:

“I do see quite a few cases of pets with behaviour problems following separation or divorce… most commonly separation anxiety in dogs.”

As highly social, hierarchically-minded pack animals, dogs are very sensitive to the body language and emotions of the people around them. They form strong bonds with individuals and can be very aware if that person suddenly disappears.

Dogs and other pets such as cats are also very focused on their daily routines and deviations from this can be a source of stress, Mornement explained.

“Any big disruption to their normal routine or breaking of attachment bonds affects them a lot.”

However, their sensitivity to their surroundings means that family breakups can also benefit pets, the behaviourist continued.

“When couples do separate it’s often a positive if there’s been any sort of verbal or physical abuse pets witness, like kids, that can cause some stress and anxiety.”

Tracey Jackson from Australian law firm firm Couper Geysen said she had seen examples of acrimoniously divorcing couples using pets as objects to fight over.

“One client came to us and the dog had spent all the work days with him while he was outdoors — the dog had a ball socialising with other animals and people. After the break-up there was issues and arguments and …the ex-wife ended up keeping the dog and the dog didn’t get to enjoy his quality of life he was used to.”

Separating dogs in particular from known individuals, whether human or animal, can cause enormous stress, Jackson added.

“When dogs are part of a pack, no matter how small, separation from that pack means death to them — you take away their sense of security.”

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  1. Dr. Nigel Miles says:

    The acronym is spelt PhD….not as was typed and there are any forms of doctorate degrees which most medical “doctors” specifically don’t possess!

  2. Andrew says:

    Am I alone in thinking that to regard pets as part of the family is so much sentimental tosh?

    If there is not enough space or enough money to look after the animal send it on a one way trip to the vet. In another thread I mentioned an IFPA case against a very wealthy estate by a former lady friend of the deceased. Her budget included a monthly allowance for feeding her pooch and its veterinary care which was equal to my trainee’s annual salary, and she was outraged by it.

    Court time spent on such arguments is court time wasted. I commend the judgment of Solomon!

  3. Luke says:

    “the ex-wife ended up keeping the dog and the dog didn’t get to enjoy his quality of life he was used to”
    Let’s see her prove it.
    I’m going to lose sleep over this terrible situation 🙂
    Good grief – another example of “first world problems”…

  4. Victoria says:

    For those of you that have said that it should be a one way trip to the vets, I hope you never lose something that you love! My dogs and horses are the only things that get me up in the morning, they are my world! I have no children and live miles away from family and friends. Having been in a mentally abusive relationship for the last 16 years I am praying I get to keep them in the divorce otherwise it will quite literally kill me. Think before you say such awful things to some of us, dogs are all we have!

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