Animal charity’s ‘pet-nup’ for seperating owners

Blue Cross animal charity has been the first to introduce a ‘Pet-Nup’, a legally binding pre-nuptial agreement regarding the ownership of pets following a divorce.

Their research showed that 1 in 4 divorcing couples will argue over the custody of a pet, with cats and dogs the most common cause of a dispute, followed by horses, rabbits and guinea pigs.

Pets are increasingly being given to rehoming centres when it cannot be agreed who keeps them. For those who couldn’t decide who should keep the pet, 15% decided to give them to a family friend, 12% to family members and 6% are given to pet charities, with reportedly four pets taken in by Blue Cross animal charity every week following relationship breakdowns.

The charity’s research also revealed that the wife or girlfriend will keep the fought over pet on 56% of occasions, whilst men do just under 29% of the time.

Head of the Family Department at Macks Solicitors, Elizabeth Gallagher, explained that personal possessions and pets can become very emotive issues when a relationship breaks down.

“We always encourage clients to attempt to resolve these issues between themselves so as not to affect the resolution of the bigger things. In many cases however, people are unable to, as the ownership of a pet will clearly be an important issue. Consequently, such disputes can get blown out of proportion in terms of the time and costs involved in the resolution. A move to reduce the stress and acrimony following a relationship breakdown has to be welcomed”.

Considered a chattel under UK law, the pet is usually awarded to the person who purchased it, who is considered to be their owner. The dispute can go to a small claims court if it is not settled between the couple, where shared ownership can be given in some circumstances, or the animal can be sold and the proceeds split. A pet pre-nup arrangement would prevent the treatment of the animal as a possession, and the distress that may come with the dispute.

A free download of the ‘Pet-Nup’ can be found here.


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