The law is on our side

“Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” – – Khalil Gibran

Many news shows and websites have been providing a look back at 2017 and they highlighted things that often went unnoticed in the noise of our every day lives.  For those of us that are not lawyers, we may not be as in tune to stories involving the law or we may not pay as much attention to changes in the law, but 2017 was definitely a turning point in trends related to companion animals.

With animals becoming more a part of our lives than ever before, new legal challenges such as what happens to the animals in a divorce arise forcing judges to make decisions on things that are still considered ‘property’ in most states.  

  • Illinois passed new legislation so now a judge can decide who is the best owner for the family pet in the event of a divorce.  Previously, companion animals were treated like furniture in a divorce. They were divvied up between the splitting couple as part of the value of the estate. But on Jan. 1, a judge will now be able to consider who walks the dog more or who cleans out the fish tank and award the pet accordingly.  The judge would, in theory, be able to grant joint custody of the pup.
  • Much earlier in the year, Alaska passed the first ever law of it’s kind for animals and divorce, setting a precedent for others to follow.  It was an amendment to Alaska’s divorce statutes, making Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets.

And do not forget the ground-setting law that California passed, banning the sale of dogs, cats or rabbits unless they came from a shelter or rescue.

Beginning January 1, 2019, California’s new law will prohibit:

…a pet store operator from selling a live dog, cat, or rabbit in a pet store unless the dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group…

It is often hard as we are fighting day-to-day to save that next animal, to see that the efforts we are all putting forth are having a positive impact on the future.  But these laws are clear indication that your passions are paying off and animals are starting to receive the protections in the law needed.

We have to acknowledge the progress we made, but understand that we still have a long way to go. That things are better, but still not good enough.

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