Custody of Pets in Divorce and the Rise of Animal Rights

by admin on May 12, 2023

British Columbia introduced, on March 27, 2023, the amendment of B.C.’s Family Law Act to provide clearer parameters for judges in pet custody cases and issues. The proposed changes include requiring the court to consider factors such as ability and commitment of each party to care for the pet, the relationship a child may have with the pet, and the risk of violence within the family, and the threat of cruelty.  Moreover, the new legislation actually requires the court to consider the relationship of the pet to the members of the family, which seems to imply considering the emotional state of the pet, in addition to the pet’s relationship with the humans in the family.

Traditionally, pets have been viewed as property, rather than as living beings subject to family custody laws.  However, in Western nations, custody of pets has become an evolving issue in divorce cases, as pets are becoming recognized as being more than mere property.  The growing animal rights movement may be a cause for the recognition of animal rights in legal proceedings.  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an American animal rights nonprofit organization that is at the forefront of the animal rights movement.  However, they are not without controversy. According to critics, PETA’s core agenda is valuing animal’s lives above human lives. Recently, PETA has protested the use of rabbits that suffered during research on brain tumors by John Hopkins University.  PETA has announced a policy against “Speciesism” which they define the human-held belief that all other animal species are inferior. Speciesist thinking involves considering animals—who have their own desires, needs, and complex lives—as means to human ends.

Nevertheless, the concept of Speciesism is new and Thailand still hold more traditional views towards animal ownership and the rights of pets in divorce and custody proceedings. Animals, including pets, are viewed as a property according to the law of child custody in Thailand.

Photo credit: Roger Ahlbrand 

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