Well, the answer is “yes” .
On the ground, I am seeing more and more cases where there is an issue or dispute about a family pet following the breakdown of a relationship.
There has been a recent article in the International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family (Oxford journals) written by Deborah Rook of Northumbria London School – “Who Gets Charlie? The Emergence of Pet Custody Disputes in Family Law: Adapting Theoretical Tools from Child Law” and this can be seen here:
This looks at children’s rights and the “best interest of the child” test to advocate a new approach to resolving pet custody disputes on relationship breakdowns.
Many owners do see their pet as a family member; and more and more family lawyers are being asked to advise on pet custody matters.
In England & Wales, the courts tend to look at pets as being property or a belonging and will not look at issues relating to what might be in the animal’s best interest.
However, I suppose that an individual Judge could be influenced by other factors, such as the emotional bond that exists between the pet and the carers and to avoid any physical or emotional harm. Whether or not these factors should be considered by the court over general property considerations remains to be seen.
I have also previously blogged about this topic back on the 25 March and this can be seen here.