In Britain we are a pet loving culture. Only recently, Manchester Dogs home burnt down and within days £1.5m had been raised with Simon Cowell donating £25,000 alone.
Many families splitting up have a family pet and there is very often an emotional relationship with the pet. A pet may not be a child but in many cases is treated like one, but not so in law. A pet is a chattel and therefore does not fall within the law governing children.
In practice, this means that an animal is personal property and falls to be dealt with within financial proceedings. Many would say you cannot put a price on an animals head and the animal cannot be replaced by buying a new one. Divorce puts financial strain on the parties and animals can be extremely expensive.
In this country there is very little judicial precedent and some would argue that an animal being adjudicated upon within proceedings is a waste of judicial time.
As a result of the growing number of pet disputes, the charity Blue Cross has launched a ‘Pet Prenup’. This allows the parties to contemplate how their pet will be looked after and by whom after a marital split. The kind of issues that arise, in particular with dogs, are:
- Who will walk the dog and how many times?
- How often will the dog be groomed and who will pay?
- Who will pay the vet fees?
- How long should the dog be left alone?
- How are holidays treated?
So the question is how such agreements will be treated? Will a court be called upon to adjudicate and what can they do? At least one would expect to see independent legal advice and lack of duress. At present one has to say that the courts are unlikely to enforce per se but perhaps it will just be another factor within the financial proceedings to take into account if they are actually called upon to determine. However, if the parties will agree to be bound by such an agreement it could save a lot of heartache and hopefully keep tails wagging!