Custody of the family dog was recently considered by the Florida Court of Appeal in a Florida divorce case captioned Harby v. Harby. In this case, the Former Husband and the Former Wife were married in December 2001. In November 2017, the Former Wife filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Former Husband and Former Wife own two dogs. Their names are Liberty and Nico. At the trial, the Former Wife testified that Liberty was an emotional support dog. The Former Wife also testified that she took care of Liberty and Nico from 2013 to 2017. Between 2017 and the date of the trial, the Former Husband took care of both dogs.
The trial court awarded custody of the family dogs to the Former Husband. The Former Wife appealed this decision. She argued that Liberty was her emotional support dog. The Former Husband testified that he and his Former Wife agreed that the dogs should not be separated from each other.
The Florida Court of Appeal pointed out that in some states, family pets are recognized as having a special status that may be considered by trial courts in awarding custody and visitation of the family pet. For example, Alaska allows trial courts to determine a pet’s well-being in awarding custody and visitation in an Alaskan divorce proceeding. The State of Florida does not consider the family pet to have a special status. In the State of Florida, pets are considered to be personal property. As such, Florida trial courts cannot award custody or visitation of pets.