Do You Have A Pet? Let’s Talk About Pet Law

Have you ever wondered what would happen to your pet if you got divorced or if you died? I have, so I figured you might have too.

I know this isn’t something I usually write about, but we all encounter these everyday legal issues and I thought it would be fun. (Yes, reading about law can be fun.)

Here’s 4 of the most fundamental aspects concerning pet law:

  1. Buying a Pet.

According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, 21 states have so called “pet lemon laws” that allow a buyer of a pet to return the pet to the seller for a full refund in the event that the pet has an illness or disease.

In most states you will have between 15 to 60 days to return the poor little guy. It depends.

  1. Owning a Pet.

There are a number of laws that outline what kind of care you should be giving your pet. They vary from state to state. In most states, you can’t leave your pet outside in extreme weather conditions, such as hot, cold or hurricane weather.

And interestingly enough, while you always see something in the news about a baby being left in a hot car. It’s also illegal if you leave a pet in a hot car.

  1. Divorce

One is common and the other is certain. Let’s address divorce first. By law, pets are personal property. Like your clothes, shoes, or jewelry. Although there is much more meaningful attachment to our pets than to personal effects, the law treats them the same.

As a result, in the event of divorce where the ownership of a pet is in dispute, the court will analyze certain factors to determine who should receive the pet. These factors are different from the factors a court will consider when determining custody of children which generally is determine be considering the best interests of the child.

In determining ownership of a pet following divorce, the court would look to see who took care of the pet, paid for it, and spent time with it.

Note: If the pet is a family pet and if children are involved, the pet will probably go to the person who receives custody of the children.

  1. Death

We all want our pet(s) to be loved and cared for after our passing. As a result, if you have a pet, consider listing in your will or trust a provision that states who will receive your pet and how money you will leave for its care.

While you may create a “pet trust” to outline the care of your pet,  there’s definitely someone out there who will gladly “adopt” your pet for free. But if  that’s what you want to go ahead. You won’t be the first or the last!

Fun fact: Leona Helmsley left millions of dollars to her dog. (Most of which was never spent in the interest of her dog either, might I add.)

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