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How the law views pets in general, including in divorces.

The topic of how the law treats pets recently popped up, so let’s explore it. Despite all the humanly and emotional attachment, remember that Nevada law considers pets to be “property.” For instance, if someone negligently or even intentionally kills your dog, the law would only allow you to recover the market value of your dog and any reasonable burial expenses, along with attorney’s fees and court costs. The law would not allow you to recover punitive or non-economic damages, however. That means, even if you considered your dog your best friend, you won’t be able to seek emotional distress or loss of companionship damages. The statute in Nevada even goes so far as to cap damages at $5,000 for a single pet. If your pet happens to be injured instead of killed, then the law similarly looks at economic values instead of non-economic values. This reality can be upsetting to may animal lovers and owners, who think their pets have an emotional and sentimental value beyond just market value.

Along those lines, in a divorce case, Nevada also treats pets like property. That means no clear rules exist as to which spouse would keep your dog. However, factors could be relevant, such as who initially purchased the dog or paid for supplies and treatment. If one of you purchased your dog before you married, then the case is much simpler to argue for that spouse to keep the dog. Or if one spouse happened to keep the dog after you both physically split, that spouse could argue to simply maintain the status quo. That is not to say that a “custody” sort of arrangement cannot be made. If you both can persuade the court that particular schedule is viable, then you could get an order to share the dog, much like a child custody order. If you have a shared arrangement, you can also divide the costs of maintaining the dog.

As with most issues in a divorce, however, do not just use the dog as collateral or out of spite against the other spouse if you actually don’t care about the dog. Thus, you should try to reach an agreement either before or after things head south with your spouse.  Remember that the more you fight over insignificant issues, the longer and more expensive your court process could be. Plus, if evidence comes out that you don’t actually like the dog and even abused it, then you could lose the battle.  So just ask whether it’s worth fighting for in that case.