How Do Courts Treat Pets in a Divorce?

Brooke Swier Schloss
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Family Law and Estate Planning attorney helping families across South Dakota plan and protect their loved ones


Under the Anglo-American common law, dogs are property. Taking them without an owner’s consent, including by killing a dog, can be made a criminal offense by the Legislature, but, under property law, a dog is no different than a stamp collection, or a sofa. The Texas Supreme Court recently emphasized this legal position in a case that began with an acknowledgment that Texans love their dogs, but holding that no emotional-related damages may be collected for harm to a dog. That is, the only damages a court can be awarded for the killing or taking of a dog is the retail value of the dog.

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