Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

by Barbara K. Roman, Esq

More aptly, if you are going through a divorce or disillusion, “Oh Where Oh where Will My Little Dog Go”………..You are terribly concerned about your little fur baby.

The truth is, your dog may be your fur baby, but to Ohio law, he is property. To quote Joyce Tischler of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “Your pet is really no different than the silverware, the cars, the home……But, “we ask the court to consider the best interest of the animal rather than treating the animal as if he or she were a toaster.” More-and-more often, it is possible to negotiate a legally binding agreement concerning custody of your pet.

Here are two samples of cases that could keep you out of court with a custody battle: (1) You have the better chance of keeping the pet after the divorce if you purchased the dog prior to getting married, and have the documents to prove it. (2) If you listed your dog as property in a prenuptial agreement, and your fiancée signed the agreement, then it is most likely that you will retain custody of the dog.

In the cases where the fur baby isn’t the only baby –meaning there are actual human children in the household, it is probably best if the pet goes with the children.

An important question in a pet custody battle is whether this fight for Fido is really about the dog, or are there other control issues being pursued via the dog. Nancy Peterson of the Human Society of the United States has said that often, in the case of divorce, what appears to be unconditional canine caring, is, instead, a symbol of control and power. The former spouse who is continually going to court over visiting the fur baby and paying his veterinary bills, is really trying to control his former spouse.

If you are a true animal lover, remember that your pet is tuned into your emotions. The legal battles that take a toll on humans, also affect the pets.  Nancy Peterson says a telltale sign that your dog is being affected by your divorce is when a former energetic dog suddenly becomes depressed.  ”He may sleep more, eat less and lose interest in activities such as walking and playing with his owner. He may begin having accidents in the house or grooming himself excessively.”

For more information or assistance for a divorce, dissolution or in knowing Where Your Little Dog Will Go, call 216-831-0042 to speak to Barbara Roman at Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis.