Sorry, but pets *are* property

Sorry, but pets *are* property July 17, 2014

In today’s paper, in the category of “lighter news” (in the paper’s own categorization — the Trib fills page 3 with fluff articles):  “Divorcing man seeks custody – of his Lab“*

A Carol Stream man upset that his estranged wife has custody of their dog, Pepper, asked a Will County judge today to let an independent arbitrator help decide who keeps the 5-year-old black Labrador retriever known for snoring and hogging the bed.  

 “Your pet has a heart…This is a living thing we’re talking about,” said Paul Barthel, 50. . . .  

Legal experts say he joins a growing number of pet owners frustrated that courts in Illinois — and across the country — view pets as property in break-ups.

The man says he left the dog at the family home and “assumed he and his wife would work out a visitation agreement for Pepper.”  The wife “contends that she is the proper person to care for Pepper, [and] that subjecting the dog to multiple homes would not be in its best interest.”

Folks, a pet is property.  That’s the simple reality of the legal status of animals.

Now, it may be that a judge may decide, in dividing up assets, that the proper division of this asset, since, unlike a bank account, it can’t be split, is some kind of alternating ownership agreement, in the same way as I might guess that a summer cottage might be split, if both parties want access to it.  But this sort of attitude, in which people speak of the “best interest” of an animal, is foolish.  Pope Francis had a point.  (Here’s a link to the Huffington Post, which simply reports the Pope’s statements without commentary, or, if you want more contentiousness, here’s a Daily Beast article whose subtitle says it all:  “Pope Francis Is Wrong About My Child-Free Life; The pope may pooh-pooh the decision to remain childless, but the world needs more people who choose pets over kids.”)

(*Oddly, the online headline is different:  “Divorcing couple struggles with pet custody” which already implies that the man has a credible claim and that the couple do indeed need to work this out, rather than the print headline which implies it’s simply his own battle.)

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