Mom, dad, and the kids aren’t the only family members who can suffer during a messy divorce case – the wellbeing of family pets is also at risk, and the best interests of our furry friends are often lost in the drama and stress of divorce. Pets need legal protection, too, and new Alaska Bill HB147 seeks to ensure that divorce law is looking out for pets caught up in divorce and domestic abuse situations.
Like children, pets are particularly at risk in high-conflict divorce situations or those involving domestic violence. Republican Rep. Liz Vazquez is supporting the bill and says that “more and more animals are used by an abuser for punishment, manipulation, or revenge” against a victim of domestic abuse.
Introduced earlier this week, the bill would amend existing Alaska laws to include temporary care or protection of domestic animals in divorce or domestic violence cases. The animals’ best interests would be taken into consideration during divorce cases and it would help to ensure they are not left in the custody of an abuser.
“Pets are often considered part of a family and the courts should be able to consider their well-being,” said Rep. Vazquez. “This legislation will make it more difficult for a pet to be used by an abuser to keep a victim from reporting that abuse.”
The new bill would achieve three important legal securities for pets of divorce by:
- Allowing an animal’s best interests to be considered in determining pet ownership during and after a divorce.
- Providing new statutory protections for pets and allowing victims of violence to receive custody.
- Holding owners financially responsible for the care of an animal seized due to cruelty or neglect, rather than placing the financial onus on shelters or government agencies.
“Currently, local governments or shelters pay for the care of neglected or abused pets they accept,” said Rep. Gruenberg. “This is wrong. This legislation ensures that the cost of care falls on the owner of the pet.”
The bipartisan bill seeks to protect animals defined as vertebrates, including cats and dogs but excluding fish.