When People Divorce who gets the Pets

When pet owners divorce it is very important that they think of what is right for the pet as much as anything else they are fighting over. Pets should not be thought of as disposable items, discarded when a marriage ends, nor should they be held onto as possessions without considering what is best for them.


Sometimes one person was the original owner of the pet and from a legal standpoint they would continue to have ownership of the animal after a divorce. When in doubt about who actually owns the pet, this would be the name on the registration papers (for purebred animals) or on the city license, veterinarian records, and so forth. It must be said that the legal owner may not be the best owner for a pet.

-Living Situations

Sometimes one person will not be able to find accommodations that allow pets, as such it is pretty cut and dry that they should not take the pet. Sneaking one into a property where pets are not allowed is risky and could result in eviction or having the animal removed with no notice. If one person has a living arrangement that is more “pet friendly” then this should fall in their favor. This would include things such as having a properly fenced yard (for dogs), having time and finances to devote to the pet, as well as having a fairly stable living arrangement in place.

-Cats vs Dogs

One thing worth considering is that dogs typically bond to people, cats typically bond to places. A cat that is moved from its home will eventually adjust, but older cats have a much harder time moving from one home to another.

-Other Animals

Birds, such as parrots, also tend to bond to people and would do best going to the home where its primary care giver is living. Reptiles are generally easy going but have special needs in terms of housing and care which must be provided for.

-Making it Permanent

Once it has been determined who will be the new owner of the pets it is important to put everything in writing. Who owns what animal. Transfer of ownership paper should be filled in and mailed out (as for purebreds). City licensing and registration must be changed as well as contact information for the veterinarian and tattoo or microchip.

-If Not?

Hopefully both parties will recognize what is in the best interest of the pets and there will be little bickering. If neither partner is willing to care for the pets it is important that they be rehomed to homes that are stable and committed to the lifetime care and ownership of the pets.