Joint custody of pets in divorce? Alaska bill would allow judges to rule on it

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Pets can get caught in the middle of messy human relationships, and some Alaska lawmakers want to ensure the state protects them under the law.

Reps. Max Gruenberg and Liz Vazquez are working on a bill that addresses pet custody in divorces and mandates protections for pets in domestic violence situations. House Bill 147 also provides animal shelters and others a way to recover the cost of caring for a pet that is seized from a home.

Kathy Hessler is director of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She says judges in Alaska and some other states already order joint-ownership of pets during divorces, mostly when the parties involved agree.

But she says Alaska would be the first state with a law explicitly allowing judges to do that.