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Pet owners advised to deal with custody matters outside of court

Many Fort Worth area residents with children have either experienced or can relate to the strong emotions associated with child custody matters. However, even in cases where both parents vow to fight for primary custody, for the sake of the child, the family court system tries to resolve high-conflict child custody disputes as quickly as possible. The same, however, cannot be said of divorcees who are facing pet custody issues.

From doggy daycares to pet psychiatrists, Americans love and love to pamper their pets. In fact, millions of American pet owners consider their dog or cat another member of the family. There's something about a pet. A dog or cat doesn't complain, is always happy to see its owner and provides unconditional affection and love. For one 50-year-old man who is currently going through a divorce, the pain of losing custody of his dog has been both emotionally and financially draining.


When the man and his wife decided to divorce, she kept the home they once shared along with their dog, a german shepherd and black lab mix, named Pepper. Since that time, the two, whose divorce trial begins next week, have continued to argue over custody of Pepper. The man asserts he only wants visitation rights, but actions he took last spring may have cost him any chance of working out a pet visitation agreement with his soon-to-be ex-wife.

Last March, missing his beloved dog, the man drove past his wife's home. He claims he saw Pepper outside alone and that the dog jumped in his car, compelling the man to drive away with the dog. The man's estranged wife, however, argued her husband broke into the home they previously shared and took the dog. The man's actions resulted in his wife obtaining an order for protection.

More recently, the man attempted to persuade a judge to allow a pet mediator to help negotiate pet custody terms. The judge, citing the protection order, was quick to deny the request. The man, however, vows to keep fighting for the right to visit and see Pepper.

When it comes to divorce cases, pets are treated much the same as a piece of furniture or artwork. For this reason, it's often best to work out pet custody and visitation agreements with a soon-to-be ex outside of court. 

Source: Chicago Sun-Times, "Pepper the pooch is the focus of a divorce dispute," Stefano Esposito, July 21, 2014

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