Dog in Divorce: Who gets it?
Who gets the dog in divorce is a popular question. In another recent Los Angeles celebrity divorce, Cesar Millan, dog trainer, author, and host of the National Geographic Channel’s “The Dog Whisperer,” is ending his 16-year marriage with wife Ilusión. In their web-release, Cesar and Ilusión sadly announced that they “have decided to file for divorce. The decision was made after much consideration and time. We remain caring friends, and are fully committed to the co-parenting of our two boys.”
In her divorce petition, filed on June 4, Ilusión claims “irreconcilable differences.” She seeks primary physical custody of their two sons, Andre and Calvin, child support, and spousal support, but who will get the pets? Their dogs have always been front and center with the Millans. Cesar’s work necessarily revolves around these animals. But what about the children’s relationship with the dogs? Will Cesar get pet custody? Will Ilusión get pet visitation rights?
The harsh reality is that pets are generally considered personal property. Despite efforts to treat “living property” with greater deference, that is the current state of the law in Arizona. Of course, pets are more than mere possessions to those who own them, care for them, play with them, train them, and consider them members of the family. The universal success of dog training “Cesar’s Way” attests to that.
How Does The Law Look At Dog Ownership?
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Unlike the Millans, though, most families won’t have a professional dog whisperer available to assist with their pet’s transition. Unfortunately, divorced pets are too often surrendered to animal shelters for hopeful adoption. The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP) lists the top 10 reasons why dogs and cats are relinquished to animal shelters, including: personal problems, moving, landlord issues, too many pets in the home, cost of pet maintenance, no time for the pet, inadequate facilities, biting, house soiling, and pet illness.
Whether canine, equine, feline, or exotic–humans have long-lasting emotional ties to their animal companions. A dog is often a child’s confidant, always there to listen. Some adult owners think of their pets as the children they never had. But pets are not children. In the eyes of the law, pets are not family at all.
The family law attorneys at the office of Scott David Stewart discuss animal custody considerations in Pets in Divorce, Part 2: Companion Animals in Prenuptial Agreements, Mediation, and Separation Agreements.
Cesar’s Way: A Personal Message from Cesar and Ilusión Millan
People: Dog Whisperer Star Cesar Millan and Wife Split
National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP): Top Ten Reasons for Pet Relinquishment to Shelters in the U.S.