Alaska Becomes First State to Assign Custody to Pets in Divorce Cases

Posted by Amber King
dog laying with toy

You love your pet like a child, and Alaska is the first state to recognize it.

Nearly 65% of American households report having a pet. As that number continues to increase, the way in which pets are treated changes. Gone are the days of pet ownership, and today's generation has welcomed a new ideal, fondly referred to as pet parenting.

But the idea that your dog or cat is treated more like a child than an animal doesn't hold up in court. That is, unless you live in Alaska. If you were to get divorced in any of the other 49 states, your pet would be considered property. They'd be treated like your couch or your car, and they'd be sent to live with whichever spouse wanted them the most or fought the hardest. In cases when the marriage doesn't end well, this often means one spouse is completely cut off from their former pet.

Attractive wedding couple sitting on their haunches on the pavement and holding two their purebred dogs.

But thanks to a new amendment that took effect on January 17 in Alaska, pets are now treated more like children. HB 147 adds precedence to ensuring an animal's welfare in the event of divorce. Judges now have the ability to assign joint custody of pets, something that is reserved only for children in every other state.

Pets, dogs especially, are complicated emotional beings who feel grief, anxiety, stress, and sadness as much as humans do. They create powerful bonds with their owners, and in many cases of divorce, it's in the dog's best interest to maintain those relationships.

Many divorced couples arrange their own custody agreements, but this new amendment gives them a legal way to hold their ex-spouses accountable.

Do you think other states should follow Alaska's lead? Let us know in the comments.

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Alaska Becomes First State to Assign Custody to Pets in Divorce Cases