A proposed new law that will make the welfare of pets a consideration in divorce proceedings is to come before family law courts in an American state.
The bill, introduced in the state legislature earlier this week in Alaska, was designed to discourage the use of pets as emotional leverage in acrimonious break-ups.
Liz Vazquez, the Republican state representative and one of the proposed law’s authors, wants to stop pets being used as leverage, particularly in domestic violence cases.
She said: “More and more animals are used by an abuser for punishment, manipulation or revenge against a victim. They will threaten to kill, maim or torture a pet to gain control over the family.”
The bill would also amend domestic violence statutes to include temporary care or protection for animals.
“Victims and children would hesitate to leave an abusive relationship or abusive environment for fear of leaving behind their pets,” the former prosecutor. “We can stop that.”
The bill requires consideration of an animal’s well-being during divorce proceedings and calls for owners of animals lawfully seized for neglect or cruelty to cover costs in a shelter.
In July 2013, one of the first domestic violence shelters in the US for people with pets was opened in New York City.
The correct legal treatment of a pet in England and Wales is as personal property.
In the eyes of the law the animal is a chattel, to be divided up in the same manner as the household furniture or jewellery.
Pet-owners, however, see things very differently and pet ownership is a sensitive and often emotive subject, not unlike disputes over arrangements for children.
Already, a number of cases concerning pets are even being fought in the Court arena with an estimated one fifth of all contested financial proceedings involving issues related to the ownership of a pet.