Among all of the hardship, hurt feelings and upset a divorce can cause among family members, children and friends, you can always count on your pet to not take sides. He (or she, or they) don't look to point paws at the one who caused all of this marital strife; the only thing that matters is that dinner is coming at 6 p.m. and the water bowl is full. Perhaps you can appreciate why the children should spend a substantial portion of time with the other spouse once the parties no longer live together, but your pet's loyalty must be rewarded! No way are you entering into a shared custody arrangement of Fido. The good (or possibly bad) news is that the courts in Pennsylvania will agree that you can't share custody of Fido. In fact, pursuant to Pennsylvania divorce law, Fido is no more or less precious than that hideous armoire you were itching to get rid of anyway. He's just a piece of property.

The Pennsylvania case that ultimately left a party dog-less is Desanctis v. Pritchard, 803 A.2d 230 (Pa.Super 2002). In Desanctis, The parties divorced and included in their property settlement agreement a provision that provided Wife would have custody of the parties' dog and that Husband could exercise visitation. Lo and behold, once Wife moved out, she denied Husband visitation of the dog. Husband looked to the courts for relief, and ultimately discovered he was barking up the wrong tree.

The Desanctis court found that despite the status owners bestow on their pets, Pennsylvania law considers dogs to be personal property. Specifically, the court determined that terms in a property settlement agreement related to a so-called "custody arrangement" were void, as to exercise custody of a dog was a legal impossibility. The final bite to Husband (and dog lovers alike) was the court's statement that [Husband] is seeking an arrangement analogous, in law, to a visitation schedule for a table or a lamp. This result is clearly not contemplated by statute.

The important lesson for the pet lovers out there who are contemplating divorce is not so much that your beloved pets are seen as property. Instead, the concern is that any written agreement to protect your right of visitation of Fido might as well be used to line your new puppy's cage while you toilet train him. Your new dog will have the chance to put that agreement to good use, because it's not worth the paper it's printed on.