London – The biggest bone of contention in a quarter of all divorces is the family pet, according to a report.
Research among family lawyers and a poll of the public said that many couples caught up in divorce are likely to put custody of a pet above their concerns about property, or even the children.
Worries about the fate of dogs, cats, horses, birds or other pets mean that increasing numbers of couples on the brink of marriage are taking out “pet-nups” to make sure their husband or wife does not try to take their beloved away animal in the event of divorce, it found.
But, the report by Direct Line Pet Insurance said, some pet owners use their animal to take vengeance on a former spouse. A quarter would give their animal to a shelter or rescue centre, one in six would sell it, and a similar figure would consider having it put down. In law, an animal is property, and courts have powers to award a pet to the person who bought it, or order it to be sold.
The report, based on a survey of 2 000 people and more than 100 family lawyers, said in an average divorce case 25 hours of lawyers’ time involved the fate of a pet.
Prit Powar of Direct Line said: “Given how important pets are within a family it is not surprising so many people fight for custody. We urge owners to consider what is ultimately best for their pet’s wellbeing.”