Americans currently have about 74 million dogs in 43.5 million
households, and 90.5 million cats in 37.7 million households.
Issues surrounding animals are varied and can run the gamut from
custody to dog bites, dog barking to abuse.
Animal law is in its infancy. Companion animals are considered
by the courts as simply, property. To many humans, they are much
more than mere property. They are family.
Divorce is a difficult time in the lives of many individuals.
When children and significant property are at issue, it can
become even more stressful. The situation can become even more
contentious and traumatic if a non-human, companion animal, who
is considered family, is involved. The law does not formally
recognize this emotional bond, and the courts are normally
required to treat the animals as property. Unfortunately, there
is no custody or visitation for personal property. There are no
best interest statutes nor does the possibility exist to appoint
someone to determine what is in the economic value of the
property. The opportunity for satisfactory resolution to an
animal dispute is limited.
Mediation, in animal custody cases, offers the parties the
opportunity to not be bound by existing law and precedent.
Therefore, if there is a desire to create a custody and
visitation agreement, a mediator can facilitate this outcome and
help the parties craft an enforceable contract or agreed
judgment entry. Courts will uphold an agreement as to which
person receives the dog, because the parties are free to make
agreements as to the ownership of particular pieces of property.
Barking dogs can be a nuisance. There are ordinances in every
county which allow for the offending owner to be cited and
fined. While the law allows for such repercussions to proceed,
the long term effect of such action can make any neighborhood
less than a pleasant place to come home to. Whether your
neighbor’s dog is barking at inappropriate times, is terrorizing
the neighborhood with running amok and needs to be confined to
its rightful residence, SCMA can mediate these complaints and
facilitate an agreement everyone can live with.
SCMP offers a very rare opportunity to mediate your animal
disputes and as a gesture of the care and concern we have for
all companion animals, a portion of our fees will be donated to
a non-profit animal rescue organization at our local shelter.
Rebecca J. Huss, Separation,
Custody, and Estate Planning Issues Relating to Companion
Animals, 74 U. Colo. L. Rev. 181, 188 (2002)