Do Dogs Have Standing?
Drake Bennett’s piece Lawyer for the Dog raises some interesting issues in canine custody disputes:
Pet custody disputes have become an increasingly common fixture in divorce cases and [veterinarian Amy] Marder, an animal behavior specialist, has consulted in several. To do a proper evaluation, she likes to spend at least an hour and a half with the couple and the pet. . . .
Marder frowns on so-called “calling contests,” a method used by lawyers in some custody cases, in which the owners stand at opposite ends of a room and call the pet to see which way it will go. She prefers to observe the animal’s body language as it interacts with its owners. She looks at whether it sits closer to one or the other, and how it reacts when each pets it. . . .
Sometimes she recommends joint custody, but only if she thinks the animal can handle it. “Some animals think it’s terrific to go live in two homes,” she says. “Others have separation anxiety and splitting time would only make it worse.”