Dogs and Mogs

In an article in the February edition of “Family Law” Simon Bruce from Farrer & Co in London comments on the situation of family pets in family breakdown.

Mr Bruce observes that owners can have relationships with pets for longer than their children are minors and very often for longer than the relationship with their partner. Many people seek lawyers who will be understanding and empathetic not just in relation to finance and children but towards the domestic pets or larger animals such as horses which form such a fundamental part of so many families and lives.

Strictly in English law a pet is a “chattel”. It is simply something that is owned. Unfortunately that simple legal status does not remotely recognise the emotional investment that so many people make in their furry bundles of thing-ness.  Disputes arise over ownership, contributions, love, and often a significant consideration of how the animals may “feel” about certain issues. This is not the place to examine the evidence around that issue – we are simply reflecting the reality of the disputes that arise and the genuine nature of the human emotions aroused.

Mr Bruce notes that disputes about beasts can be reduced in the same way as many other disputes. They can be included within a pre-up or a cohabitation agreement. They can be the subject of a “mid-nup” or “post-nup” and they can form part of the mediation proposals, the separation agreement and perhaps the court order on divorce. For children we cater for visiting arrangements, birthday visits, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays, school fees.  Ought we also to make specific provision for pet insurance, vet’s bills, new puppies or kittens and shared care arrangements for Gromit?  Maybe……..


Ian Stirzaker

Ian is the Senior Partner, Head of Family Law and a Family Mediator at SME Solicitors. Please contact him, Joanna Gardner or Denise McCabe for specialist help and advice in all aspects of family law at or  or   

Added: 08 Mar 2021 12:55

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