Pet “custody” and visitation

In a recent case of In re Marriage of Enders, an Illinois Appellate Court for the first time addressed “custody” of a pet. On appeal, the husband argued that divorce court committed an error in denying him visitation with the parties’ two dogs.

The Appellate Court relied on a New York case and statutory definition of a dog owner under the Illinois Animal Control Act. Because the dogs were left in the care of the wife, under the statutory definition, the wife was the legal owner of the two dogs. Thus, she was properly granted custody of the two dogs.

Many pet owners will certainly be disappointed with this decision because the court did not award visitation to husband under a somewhat flawed logic. The Appellate court reasoned that awarding pet visitation would “serve as an invitation for endless post-decree litigation.”

Interestingly enough, the court followed New York and declined to use the “best interest” standard, as dogs do not rise to the same importance as children.

As it stands, if the issue of dog custody is not resolved prior to trial, the court will award only “custody” to one party.