Does New York Have Pet Custody Laws?

Announcer: It’s Quinn & Cantara on PYX 106.

Cantara: 1-800-law1010, Paul Harding. Happy New Year, sir.

Paul: Yeah, Happy New Year, guys.

Cantara: Hey, Paul. The topic today is pet custody. It’s a legitimate topic. And it’s one that I’m not even gonna smirk about because I literally have a friend/family member going through this. This is a real thing.

Quinn: It’s reality and reality even makes you feel, like, “Well, okay. Maybe I need to reevaluate my beliefs.”

Cantara: Maybe, but I also have human beings that I care for. So I prioritize, but that’s me thinking, not everybody.

Quinn: I would pull Murphy out of the way before I would pull my own dog out of the way. I think we all can agree of a speeding train, you know.

Cantara: This law we’re gonna talk about is in Illinois, but here in New York I’m curious. Do we have pet custody laws?

Paul: No, we don’t. We don’t. They treat animals in the law as property the way you treat a couch or the way you treat your car when there’s distribution of property. But you can imagine even though, you know, you clearly, you know, you have your kids, and you have your, I mean, you’re taking some stuff with you from the marriage. It’s super important custody, but the energy flows, and I’ve seen it. We’ve heard about it. We know some cases that attempted to go forward for custody with pets ranks real high. Sometimes that can be the best result of a marriage was that you had an animal that you both loved dearly.

Cantara: I know someone willing to give up custody of the kids if they get the dog.

Quinn: Argh. Let me tell you something. I bet it’s even more vicious between the couple when there are no kids, and it’s just the dog, right?

Cantara: Oh, I bet.

Quinn: Because that’s all we got.

Paul: Well, they say that’s the classic. Yeah, that’s the classic. You’ve got two couples…you’ve got two partners, both of them are kind of professionals, are not working, and they just have the animal that they share, and that’s when these cases come to head. So, in New York, they treat it like property. Now we’ve got some other states like Alaska and Illinois that have said, ” No, no. We’re going to look at the best interests of the pet. You know, is one pet being removed from another pet? Right, so they’re gonna split the pets. Is that the right thing?”

Quinn: Oh, you can’t do that. You can’t do that.

Paul: Well, now they can. They can in New York. But they’ll look in that stuff, and also they look at, ” Hey, can there be joint sort of ownership or joint custody of these pets?” Weekends, holidays, literally coming right down to the way we look at child custody.

Cantara: Remember when I started dating TCO and she had that ex-boyfriend out there in Johnstown or something? And she had been with him for a while, and they had a dog. And so she would go out visit the dog. And the guy had a kid, and so she got close to the kid. So I’m man enough to understand that’s okay, but back in the day, she may have wanted to take that dog with her. I’m just saying.

Quinn: Paul, is there, like, is there clamoring for this law to be applied here in New York?

Paul: So, New York doesn’t have it. There has been some murmurings of since the Illinois law came about. Not much momentum at all, but really the judges that they say, and I’ve never had a case like this, but I’ve heard that the judges will sort of kind of walk you down that path and try to do what’s best for the child and kind of appeal to the people so their nature of loving their animal. But no, nothing imminent. But I suspect at some point we’re gonna see this very same law here in the states.

Cantara: And I bet as far as lawyering, like, in the big cities this is probably a really lucrative niche business. You know, I picture New York City where you know the kind of dog that fits in a briefcase, a purse, you know, you know what I mean?

Quinn: Yeah.

Cantara: In their divorce, they’re both [inaudible 00:03:35]

Quinn: The toy dog

Cantara: Double income no kids. They’re making a ton of money. I bet this is a good niche business to get into.

Paul: I think there could be lots of…

Quinn: Forget that it fits into a bag, there is also an emotional connection, Cantara.

Cantara: Oh, yeah, that too. I forget about that sometimes.

Quinn: No, great point.

Paul: You know, interestingly enough, there was an exception in this law for the service dogs. So, a service dog is always in every state still treated as a companion, as property of the person who owns it. But their service dog…have you been on a plane in the last three years? You know, there used to be no dogs and now, you know, every fourth seat you see a dog. You know, they’re service dogs. And so you see there’ll be more of that. That’s occurring here in New York, that if it’s labeled as a service dog, then you do get to take that dog with you if there’s a divorce.

Cantara: Right. Just because Fido but my blind wife needs him doesn’t mean I’m gonna get him.

Paul: Yes.

Quinn: Absolutely. But there’s a lot of service dogs that aren’t services dogs.

Cantara: There’s a service pig at the airport.

Quinn: I think on the internet…I don’t know how much credence you…Yeah.

Paul: Yeah.

Quinn: Yeah.

Cantara: This was an interesting call, Paul. Thanks for the time.

Cantara: Thanks, buddy.

Paul: Okay, guys.

Cantara: Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1-800-law1010,

Announcer: Quinn & Cantara Mornings on PYX 106.

*Find out Vermont’s Pet Custody Laws, here.