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. If you find yourself ending a romantic relationship or other co-habitation situation and custody of the pet has become a regular fight, give our experienced Pennsylvania pet custody attorneys a call to discuss how we can help you keep your pet.

The Animal Law Firm: Your Pennsylvania Pet Custody Attorneys

Although animal law may seem like a niche area of the legal system, it is actually 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 you and your 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.

What Is Pet Custody in PA?

When many people think of custody, they think of children. Pet custody is similar but involves pets rather than children, and is only applicable in situations involving unmarried or “cohabitating” couples.

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 have the same legal protections 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. This means that pet custody cases “all or nothing” such that one partner gets the pet full-time, while the other has to say goodbye.

Why Do I Need a Pet Custody Attorney?

Pet custody is just as emotional as child custody, but the court does not give it nearly as much time and attention. The best way to negotiate pet custody is through a pet attorney. We understand how important your pet is to you, and we can advocate for your needs in court.

As mentioned, most pet custody results in sole custody, meaning that one partner gets the animal while the other partner 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 ex. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are helpful in these situations, but they are not required. If you are interested in learning more, we offer what we call a “pup-nup” template for sale on our website for you to use if you find yourself in a relationship and adopting a pet with your partner. This helps set firm boundaries for what happens in the event of a break up, later. We also offer a pet-custody contract on our templates section of our website and encourage you to download it to use if you and your ex find yourself broken up, but still wanting to share custody. This helps prevent the terrible inevitability of one partner withholding the pet from the other later on.

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 partner owned the pet before the relationship
  • Which partner oversaw the primary care of the pet
  • Which partner has more time to spend caring for the pet
  • Which partner has the finances to care for the pet
  • Which partner is listed on the pet’s official paperwork
  • Which partner brought the pets to the vet and other pet-related maintenance

If you have special circumstances in your situation, we can present them to the court for consideration . 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 usually enforce shared 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. Regardless of whether you are married, planning to get married, or just living together with no intention of marry, having a “pup-nup” is crucial to make sure that your rights are protected in the event that the relationship ends. This can be entered into at any time before, during, or after the adoption of a pet.

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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