Breakups happen and are a fact of life. When couples part ways, what happens to the pets they share? Maine resident, Jessica Sardina, took her ex-boyfriend to court seeking shared custody of their dog, Honey.
The case made it all the way to Maine’s Supreme Court, garnering international headlines and commentary from dog lovers around the globe.
A district court ruled in favor of Sardina’s ex-boyfriend, Kelvin Liriano, stating that because his name was on the adoption papers, the dog belonged to him.
Sardina appealed, arguing that she had a stronger attachment to the Boxer-Lab mix. The Maine Supreme Court upheld the decision of its lower court, allowing Liriano to remain the sole owner of the dog.
In the report, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley wrote, “What happens with the dog when unmarried parties go their separate ways – is that really something we want judges in this state to spend their time on?”
It took two weeks for the decision, which views animals as property. Sardina’s lawyer, Gene Sullivan, issued a response to the decision.
“On one end of the spectrum, we have custody laws for children,” Sullivan shared. “On the other, we have property laws for property. In Maine, it is time to change where along this spectrum companion animals belong. I would argue closer to the middle, on the custody side.”
Pets are considered property in all 50 states, and only three states, Alaska, Illinois, and California – have specific laws that address pet custody when a marriage ends. There are no statutes in place for what happens to pets when unmarried couples part ways.