Puppy: Property or Family Pooch?

Seven years ago, I adopted my dog Lola, the cutest Pomeranian in the world. I was still in college and living in the dorms, where no dogs were allowed. My best friend agreed that we would share her: he would let her live with him, but I paid for Lola and all her paperwork was in my name. He housed her, and I came over every day between classes to take care of her. Needless to say, I pretty much lived with my friend and Lola and did not spend much time at the dorm. Lola came to live with me when I graduated, but she had lived with my friend for 18 months. Dogs are, in many states, considered property, and, now being in law school, I know leaving my “property” at my friend’s house for over a year could have jeopardized my claim to Lola. (Remember: possession is 9/10ths of the law!)

But is a dog property or a part of the family?

A recent case in a post on pawnation.com highlighted Craig and Gayle Myers’s biggest issue in their divorce to be custody of their beloved Lhasapso, Lucky. The Myers live in Maryland and according to state law dogs are considered property – not part of the family. In a divorce action, disputed property is usually sold for money to be split by the couple. Maryland Judge Graydon S. McKee III granted shared custody of Lucky in alternating custodial periods of 6 months. However, if the couple had not agreed to this arrangement, Lucky would probably have had to be sold.

According to Gayle’s attorney, the legality of this arrangement seems to be unclear since dogs are considered possessions. I don’t think any dog owner would agree that statement. My mother has seriously said she loves my dog Lola more than me! Lola is living with my parents now since I am in law school, and I can already see a custody battle over her when I graduate.

Should state legislatures pass laws to deal with this pet custody issue in divorces? It may be difficult to decide since people love their cats, birds, hamsters, and fish just as much as I love my dog. Lola is my baby – and no amount of money would be enough to take her away from me.