Maryland Judge Awards Couple Joint Custody of Dog

dog-shih%20tzu.jpgIn a first for the state of Maryland – but what may be an indication of things to come in family court – a judge has awarded joint custody of a dog to its owners in a divorce case.

Craig and Gayle Myers will now spend six months each with Lucky, a Shih Tzu mix they adopted during their eight-year marriage. The couple has no children, but considers Lucky to be the closest thing to it; apparently they found a judge — retired Maryland Circuit Judge Graydon S. McKee II — who agrees.

In a CNN story about the case, Judge McKee said that even though dogs are considered property in Maryland, like every other state in the U.S., “I really don’t think a dog is like a couch.”

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, pet custody disputes are steadily increasing. AAML president Marlene Eskind Moses says this trend could add to the congestion in the country’s family law courts, but she understands how important pets are to people, especially when they are experiencing so many other feelings of loss during a divorce.

A California-based animal rights group, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, is petitioning Congress for federal legislation to protect animal rights, including the right to have their interests represented in court and protected by law.