The BBC reported that there are approximately 17 million pet owning homes in the UK with 12 million dogs and 12 million cats being the country’s favourites . When couples divorce who gets to keep man’s best friend can be a bitter conundrum.

Where there are children in a marriage the Court can ascertain a child’s views on who they want to live with and what they want to do. A court would look at what is in their best interest so far as who can take the best care of them and look after them financially. No such possibility exist with pets.

In English and Welsh Courts pets are by convention looked at simply as chattels and so can be argued over in the same way as other property. It would therefore be arguable that claims are made on the grounds of who purchased pooch, who is the registered owner and whether it was gift to one or another. If there are children then arguments could also be made about the bond between them. It would not be unheard of for there to be cases where ownership arguments will be used as a bargaining chip or indeed simply out of spite in more acrimonious separations.

Pre-nuptial agreements can make provisions for pets and though not a sure way of securing ownership in the event of separation they are persuasive evidence that would support a claim to be the owner. When ownership becomes a dispute in proceedings, it is far preferable for matters to be settled by compromise between parties and set out in a consent order. As with any member of the family, asking a Court to determine who should live with who is to be avoided when possible.