For Gayle Myers, her dog Lucky is just like her child. "I don't have any kids, so she is the closest thing that I am going to have to a child." She and her husband, Craig, had taken in Lucky, a Shih Tzu mix, as a stray. When their eight-year marriage ended in divorce, the couple managed to resolve all outstanding issues - except for who would get to keep Lucky. "I know that he cares about her and didn't want to give her up either. It's just - neither of us wanted to give her up,” Myers says. And because in Maryland, pets are considered property, like a house or a car, it was up to retired Maryland Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee II to decide who would get the dog. He awarded the couple joint custody - the first time a decision on dog custody has been recorded in Maryland. Lucky will spend six months a year with each of his "parents." McKee says after listening to both sides, he thought it was the only fair thing to do. Watch
"I really didn't think the dog is like a couch," he explains. Disputes over pet custody have steadily increased, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. AAML President, Marlene Eskind Moses - a dog owner herself - worries pet disputes could strain the already backlogged court system. "Sharing time, sharing decision making, there's lots of issues, it really frankly would be no different than making decisions about children," she says. "Even to the point with deciding where the animal's going to be for the holidays and for the summertime." But, she adds: "We know psychologically how important pets are to people. And if you carried that out it would make sense that losing that attachment would be significant to a person when they're going through a divorce and they're losing their spouse. So the animal would take on even more significance potentially to that person."
What do you think: should pets be considered like a child in divorce court?