Divorce is hard on everyone, especially pets. Here are some things to consider if you are divorcing and have one or more pets:
- Pets can suffer greatly (and silently) when family life is upset. They can’t tell you what’s wrong so be aware of any changes in behavior. Talk to your vet when indicated.
- Keep pets safe. Animal cruelty is illegal, period. Threatening or hurting a pet is a form of family violence. Make a police report or seek a restraining order if violence to a pet happens or is threatened. Ask for help in keeping your pet safe temporarily if necessary. (Additional local information:Friends of Montgomery County Texas Animal Shelters, Montgomery County Crime Stoppers on Animal Abuse, Montgomery County Women’s Center).
- Give thought to your pet’s future. Your pet trusts you and you have a responsibility. Who is going to get the pet in the divorce? Will there be visitation or sharing of expenses during and after the divorce? (some people do choose to “share” the pet after divorce- ask your attorney about this option).
- Costs of pet care should be figured into your financial picture. When you tally up your monthly expenses for your attorney and for the family law judge, make sure pet care (including medical and grooming) are included.
- You can’t just walk away. Divorce can be stressful and scary. Taking the time to be sure that an innocent animal is taken care of is the right thing to do. Make sure that you are honest with yourself and others about what is right for the pet and your family. Once everything is over, make sure that the party who has the pet also has the pet’s medical records, favorite toys, bed, feeding schedule, and anything else that will help make the transition go more smoothly. Your pet may go through a “mourning” period while getting used to a new situation.
A final word…. Every year many innocent pets lose their homes and security due to divorce. In a few cases, it may be done to protect them from family violence but in most cases financial problems, emotional issues, stress, moving, and work schedules are to blame. If you absolutely must find another home for a pet because there is no other option, choose very wisely. You can:
find a no-kill shelter, an animal rescue group (Citizens for Animal Protection, Operation Pets Alive) a Breed specific rescue group (they usually take mixed breeds too). All shelters and groups are not alike, beware and be thoroughly informed. Most shelters and volunteers are severely understaffed and overworked. There is no guarantee that your pet will be adopted, or that your pet will not have to stay in a crowed, stressful situation.
A pet is a family member. Children (and adults) can be traumatized by the loss of a pet but can be helped emotionally by the continued presence of a loving pet. Don’t underestimate what your pet does for you.