Pets and Divorce – Who keeps the dog?

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a boom in the number of couples welcoming new pets into their homes. According to the Pet Food Manufactures Association, an estimated 3.2 million UK households have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic last year. However, in instances where a relationship breaks down and a couple separates or divorces, who keeps the dog?

In 2014, the Blue Cross suggested that 1 in 4 divorces involved disputes about pets. Whilst many practitioners would probably say in practice the number is much lower, with the increase in couples buying or adopting new pets it is possible that disputes regarding pets following separation and divorce may also be set to increase.

What can you do if your relationship breaks down and a dispute arises regarding your pet?

Firstly, you should try and…

Negotiate directly with your partner

If you find yourself in a situation where a dispute has arisen between you and your partner regarding your pet, then your first course of action is to try to negotiate directly with your partner (if they are open to doing so). This is by far the most cost-effective course of action and would be the easiest option for both parties.


If you find that it has not been possible to resolve the dispute directly with your partner then you may want to enlist the help of an independent ‘third party’, or a ‘family mediator’, with a particular expertise in disputes involving pets. At Lund Bennett we can help you agree on the best course of action for you and your family.

Instruct a solicitor

If you and your partner are still unable to resolve your differences through direct negotiations or mediation with Lund Bennett, then it may be worth instructing a solicitor, which Lund Bennett can help you with. You can either do this before attempting mediation or after. Receiving a formal letter from a solicitor setting out your position may prompt your partner to take negotiations more seriously which could, in turn, lead to a resolution.

Arbitration and Court proceedings

If an agreement cannot be reached, then arbitration should be considered as an alternative to court proceedings. This will still produce a binding outcome but through a process which can be much quicker and more streamlined than court proceedings. It is possible to arbitrate over discrete issues. Whilst the court has the power to make orders regarding chattels and to hear relevant arguments as to whom should retain the chattel (the pet in this instance), court proceedings should only be pursued once you are satisfied that you have exhausted all other avenues. This avenue should be a last resort as court proceedings are time consuming, expensive and are very likely to be disproportionately so if a single issue is being pursued by one of the parties.