Pet custody cases are not as uncommon as you might think. Many couples--both married and unmarried--get pets together without any thought as to what will happen if their relationship doesn't survive. When I was divorced from my first husband, we had two cats, one dog. We had gotten the dog and one of the cats during our marriage. Fortunately, we were able to agree that I would take my original cat and the dog and he would keep our other cat. I can only imagine what would have ensued if we could not agree or if he had wanted to keep the dog. We were lucky.
Less fortunate couples have spent thousands of dollars fighting over the custody of their pets. One woman I met spent her entire retirement savings when she discovered her husband unloading their dog from the trunk of his car at the visitation drop off location (in this case the veterinarian's office and not McDonalds or Burger King as is common with visitation exchanges for children).
The law is not clear on pet custody issues and each case will be decided based on its own facts, circumstances and the whims of the court. Protect yourself and your pet with an agreement between you and your partner. The best time to do this is when the pet is acquired. These agreements should be in writing and reviewed by legal counsel. If you need representation, consider the Center for Animal Advocacy, Central Florida's only law firm dedicated to the rights of animals and their owners.
Here's a case to consider: San Diego Reader | "Central Division Small Claims: Pet Custody Case" by mngcornaglia
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