Pennsylvania Pet Custody | Expert Legal Advice

Pennsylvania Pet Custody

Fighting for Pet Custody:
How to Prove Your Case

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Pets are key members of our families. Most people love their dogs, cats, or other animals as they would a child or other family member. Although pets are not humans, they still occupy large spaces in our hearts.

Divorce or separation are difficult for many reasons, and there are lots of factors to discuss. One of the most emotional aspects for many families is determining what will happen to the family pet. In many cases, both parties wish to keep their pet. However, since pets cannot speak for themselves, and often do not take well to being shuffled between homes, one person takes the pet and the other loses a dear friend.

Animal custody cases can help you and your spouse determine what will happen to your pet after the divorce. These cases allow both sides to offer their perspectives and give the court the ability to judge who will be most capable of caring for the pet. There may even be creative solutions that allow both spouses some access to their pet.

With the help of a Pennsylvania pet custody lawyer, you can maintain a relationship with the four-legged members of your changing family.

The Animal Law Firm: Your Pennsylvania Pet Custody Attorneys

Although animal law may seem like a niche area of the legal system, in reality it is very common. Many homes and families have a pet, and these pets become central to their lives. Our team at The Animal Law Firm has been fighting for animals and pets for many years. We understand the strong bonds that form between families and pets, and we will fight passionately for your right to maintain a connection with the important animals in your life.

Many law firms do not practice animal law, but our team focuses exclusively on these areas. This means that we have more precise expert knowledge than any other firm in the state. No matter how complicated your situation may be, we have the resources and background to navigate it with you. We will not rest until the animals in your family are protected and you have a custody arrangement that is fair.

What Is Pet Custody in PA?

When many people think of custody, they think of children. Divorced parents often have shared custody of their children after a divorce, for example. Pet custody is similar but involves pets rather than children. This means that there are distinctions in the custody process.

During child custody proceedings, children may be able to speak for themselves in court. The law views them as dependents, and there are distinct laws and standards that apply. The court must make sure that the parents offer a healthy living situation for the child if they are to have custody rights. Pets, on the other hand, are viewed as property. Because they cannot speak for themselves, the court cannot take their perspective into account. Essentially, pets are living assets that require more attention than furniture or property but do not warrant the same level of diligence as human children.

Because the court views pets as property, there is usually no opportunity for shared custody arrangements. This is not only difficult to enforce, but it is also not healthy for a pet to move around a lot. Cats, especially, need to be in one place to feel safe and happy. This means that pet custody agreements are arranged so that one spouse gets the pet full-time, while the other has to say goodbye.

Why Do I Need a Pet Custody Attorney?

Pet custody can be just as emotional as child custody, but the court does not give it nearly as much time and attention. In fact, the court usually includes pets as part of the estate assets unless the owners wish to have special negotiations about them. The best way to negotiate pet custody is through a pet attorney. We understand how important your pet is to you, and we can therefore advocate for your needs in court.

As mentioned, most pet custody is sole custody, meaning that one spouse gets the animal while the other spouse relinquishes their right to see or spend time with the animal. This can be extremely heartbreaking, but unfortunately, it is usually the only option that the court offers. However, with the help of an attorney, you may be able to negotiate visitation or another arrangement with your spouse. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are helpful in these situations, but they are not required. We can help the court see the advantage of visitation rights if your situation requires it.

Having a pet custody attorney on your side ensures that the court hears your perspective and considers the best interests of your pet. Without one, the court may simply view your pet as an object to be granted, and pets are much more than that to their owners.

Pet Custody Considerations

There are many major considerations that will take place when determining pet custody. Our aim as pet attorneys is to achieve the situation that is best for the pet, and there are several ways to determine what situation fits that requirement. The court will consider:

  • Whether one spouse owned the pet before the marriage
  • Which spouse oversaw the primary training of the pet
  • Which spouse has more time to spend caring for the pet
  • Which spouse has the finances to care for the pet
  • Which spouse is listed on the pet’s official paperwork
  • Which spouse is charged with bringing the pets to the vet and other pet chores
  • Whether there is a history of animal abuse for either owner

If you have special circumstances in your situation, we can present them to the court for consideration or negotiate them into your agreement. The purpose of having a pet attorney is to ensure that every aspect of your situation has been properly considered.

Enforcing Pet Custody Agreements

Pet custody agreements can be difficult to enforce. Because pets are seen as property, Pennsylvania does not always take the time to enforce pet custody agreements. This may result in further legal action. However, your best chance for enforcement of your agreement is to create the agreement with the help of an attorney. Many couples come to informal agreements on their own but run into issues when the other person does not adhere to their part of the arrangement. When you have legal professionals involved, there is a higher likelihood that your agreement can be enforced if anything goes wrong.

Pet Custody and Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can outline what will happen to certain pieces of property if a couple divorces. Because the state views pets as a type of property, they can be written into a prenuptial agreement if they are in the picture before a couple gets married. This can be extremely helpful if you do split with your spouse. An agreement that occurs during the beginning stages of a marriage can also help; these are called postnuptial agreements. They often hold weight because they were made during a time of peace in your relationship and are often considered to be more rational than the more emotional decisions that occur during divorce.

If you are getting married, you may want to consider a prenuptial agreement for your animals. Although this seems extreme, these documents can save you a significant amount of heartache and trouble down the line. Although most couples do not want to think about divorce when they are just getting married, it may be practical to do so. We have seen many families endure heartbreak over pet custody because there was no prenuptial agreement to outline the protocol for divorce.

Are Pet Custody Arrangements Only for Divorce?

Pet custody arrangements do not only occur after a divorce. In fact, there are many other situations in which you may need to create a pet custody case. Some examples include:

  • A cohabiting couple or roommates are moving out and sharing a pet.
  • One person has been watching another person’s pet for an extended period of time, and the original owner wants the pet back.
  • A vengeful ex-partner, parent, or other person claimed custody of a pet, and you wish to claim ownership.
  • A family member is incapable of properly caring for their pet, and you want to claim ownership, or vice versa.

Any situation in which someone is questioning a pet’s housing situation may warrant a pet custody case. If you are facing discord over your pet or a family pet, you have the right to take legal action with the help of a pet custody attorney.

Contact The Animal Law Firm

Our team is here to offer compassionate, reliable legal advice for all your pet custody and pet problems. Whether your pet is facing persecution for a bite, you are wishing to explore service animal status, or you are negotiating your pet’s custody arrangement, we have the resources and expertise to help.

For more information about our firm, our experience, our policies, or to start a case, please contact The Animal Law Firm today.



We know how important your furry family member is to you. Whether they have no legs, two legs, or four or more legs, our priority is making sure you and your pet receive the best representation possible.

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