The pet custody wars continue in New York. The Law Journal is reporting that a Manhattan judge, who previously ruled that he would determine custody of a dog according to the “best interests of all concerned” standard that I previously wrote about, changed his position. Instead, he announced that custody of the dog will be determined applying property law.
This custody dispute arose from the dissolution of a New York domestic partnership. One party claims that he adopted and owns the dog. The other claims it was given to him as a gift.
According to the Law Journal, while rejecting the “best interests of all concerned” standard, the Court announced that:
animals do not have rights,” and therefore, the “all” in the best interest of all concerned standard could not include Stevie, a female Basenji mix.. . . only human beings are deemed to have contract rights enforceable at law.
There is no definitive standard in pet custody cases. The area is in a state of flux and evolving. Until a single standard is determined, it will probably be necessary to argue pet custody cases using alternative theories, including the best interests of all, personal property law, and any other theory that may be applicable.