Did you know that here in New York State, your beloved pup is more than just a pet? 

According to Pew Research Center, 51% of pet owners consider their dogs as much a part of the family as any human member. And believe it or not, only six states in the entire country legally agree - and the Empire State is one of them. 

New York, along with Alaska, California, Illinois, Maine, and New Hampshire can legally declare their treasured pets as family. Although it seems like a sweet sentiment in theory, this can actually lead to some legal complexities, especially when it comes to custody battles during a divorce or separation.

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Who Gets Custody Of A Pet In New York State?

When it comes to deciding who gets to keep your beloved dog, cat, fish, or other favorite pet after a divorce or separation in New York, it's not too different from child custody disputes. 


There are factors that are taken into consideration like being the primary caretaker, health, work schedules, and even having pet supplies.

If you ever happen to find yourself in a dog custody battle (and we hope you don’t), be ready to present vet records, photos, and even notes about who usually takes care of your furry friend.

Canadian Ruling Raises Questions For New York State Pet Owners

Crossing the border, the Canadian viewpoint is very different. Justice Richard Danyliuk, based in Saskatoon, ruled in 2016 that dogs are legal property, not family members. 

family with dog

His perspective raises questions about what could potentially happen if a couple brings their pet custody case to the courts. If former couples that share a pet do this, and the result is the court not being able to decide who gets to keep the animal, the court may order the dog to be sold.

So to sum it up, your furry friend in New York might be legally considered family, but this could lead to frustrating legal problems down the road, especially in custody battles. 

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Gallery Credit: Emily Claire

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