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House Passes Bill on Pet Custody in Abuse/Custody Proceedings

The House passed legislation Thursday that would require Family Court to give special consideration to pets when dividing marital property.

Sponsored by Rep. Krista GriffithHouse Bill 95 would require Family Court to award possession and provide for the care of companion animals when dividing marital property after considering the wellbeing of the companion animal. The court would be able to consider each person’s ability to care for the animal, the pet’s attachment to each person, and how much time and effort each person spent tending to the animal’s needs.

Under HB 95, once a petition for divorce or annulment has been filed, a companion animal could not be transferred, concealed, disposed of, or spayed or neutered without the written agreement of both parties.

HB 95 is part of a three-bill package that aims to protect people and pets from dangerous situations by weaving animal welfare into various protections and proceedings addressing domestic violence and child abuse.

Two other measures in the package, Senate Bill 70 and Senate Bill 71 passed in the Senate on Tuesday and will now go to the House for consideration.

The bills grew out of an Animal Welfare and Family Law seminar organized by Family Court Judge Jennifer B. Ranji last year, during which speakers discussed the correlation between animal cruelty and domestic abuse and the ways that studying this connection may help reduce both serious problems.

HB 95 will now head to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 95 – Custody of Companion Animals during Divorce ProceedingsCurrrent Status – House Passed 36-0-5. Now in Senate Judiciary 4/27/23
House SponsorsGriffith, Heffernan, Lynn, Williams, Baumbach, Bolden, Romer // ShortSenate SponsorsPoore, Hansen, Walsh, Hoffner, Sokola // Richardson
House Yes VotesBaumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende YearickSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesHensley Heffernan Minor-Brown Short Romer Senate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

“Dividing property can be really challenging for divorcing couples. While we all may be attached to certain items of furniture or artwork, the connection between a person and a family pet is deeply personal,” said Rep. Griffith. “HB 95 recognizes that connection and will allow our Family Court judges to look at companion animals differently than other property when deciding on where the pet should live.”

“The overwhelming research into the correlation between animal cruelty and domestic violence is why Rep. Griffith and I introduced House Bill 95,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, Senate prime sponsor of HB 95. “This bill, along with Senate Bill 71 and Senate Bill 70, will strengthen animal welfare protections and protect vulnerable family members. I’m thankful my colleagues in the House agree and I look forward to passing this bill in the Senate in the coming weeks.”

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