Wife Loses Custody of Dog She Treated like a Child to Husband who Treated it like a Dog

Sunday, May 04, 2014
German wirehaired pointer (photo-Wikipedia)

Want to keep your dog? Treat it like one.


That’s the result of a decision by a Vermont court when deciding which spouse of a divorcing couple should get to keep Belle, their 11-year-old German wirehaired pointer. The family court judge ruled that Daniel Hament, a veterinarian who took the dog to work with him each day and treated it more like a dog, should keep the animal. Laura Baker, according to the court, “is more doting and treats the dog like a child.” The court acknowledged “that either party would provide the dog with a good life, but that it would be better for the dog’s routine to let it continue to go to work with Hament.


Baker appealed the ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court, challenging the lack of consideration of a shared-custody arrangement. However, the high court affirmed the lower court’s decision, saying it had ruled out shared custody and that as property, the dog should be divided like any other marital asset.


“Unlike child custody matters, there is no legislative authority for the court to play a continuing role in the supervision of the parties with respect to the care and sharing of a companion animal,” Justice Geoffrey Crawford wrote in the decision. “Divorce has few concrete advantages for the parties, but one of the greatest is that they are no longer compelled to be in contact over the care and use of their property or the way they spend their time.”


However, in a footnote, the judges stated that “We express no opinion as to whether a private agreement to share time with a dog could be the subject of a civil lawsuit.  The enforcement of such agreements falls outside of the jurisdiction of the family division over the distribution of marital property and is not presented in this case.”

-Steve Straehley, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Babying of Dog Cost Her Custody After Divorce (by Jeff D. Gorman, Courthouse News Service)

After Divorce, Court Won't Allow Joint Dog Custody (by Lisa Rathke, Associated Press)

Hamet v. Baker (Vermont Supreme Court) (pdf)

In Test Case, Animal Shelter that Killed Pet Dog Sued for “Sentimental” Damage (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



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