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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Modern Pet Ownership

For the last few days I've been treating a very sweet mastiff for sudden kidney failure.  She didn't respond to any treatment and her kidney had completely shut down, so today we euthanized her.  But her medical condition isn't the focus of my blog today.

Yesterday I learned that the ownership was a little bit complicated.  The owner and his ex-wife had apparently included their dogs in the divorce settlement.  They didn't have children and really loved their dogs, so they officially and legally had joint custody of the dogs.  All of this came to light when each owner came to check on their dog individually and told me about the situation.  They were both involved in her decisions and were talking to each other, but lived separately.

Today when we euthanized her the man was there with his current girlfriend.  When it was time to give the injection the girlfriend left while the ex-wife came in to be present when we did it.  Once it was over she left and the girlfriend came back in.  All-in-all it was one of the stranger situations I've been a part of, and seemed very much like situations I've heard of when ex-spouses have to come together over the illness of their child.

I guess this is a reality of modern pet ownership and something we may see more of.  Pets are increasingly a part of our extended families and people feel very strongly about them.  When people separate there can be as much disagreement over the pets as there is over the car or house.  This can also make it challenging to vets as we may have to deal with situations like this that we are not trained for and have to deal with more complicated decisions over their pets' well-beings.  

I'm certainly not looking forward to dealing with a joint-custody situation where the co-owners disagree on what to do.


  1. I've seen one of the sadder ones up close--a patient's chart had "ONLY RELEASE TO *JANE DOE* and give no information to anyone else, ESPECIALLY *JOHN DOE*"

    The owners were in the middle of an ugly divorce and the husband had already tried to steal the dog once. The wife had some kind of legal paperwork stating that she had sole custody, and had removed the husband's name from the account at the hospital, but he still came in and asked to see the dog, take it home, etc.

    We almost had to call the police because he was so adamant about not leaving without "his" dog--even though it was not his dog anymore. I felt terrible for everyone involved.

  2. We had clients separate (I have a dog daycare) and they agreed to joint custody of the dog. They would exchange "ownership" each week. So the man would drop the dog off in the morning and the woman would pick him up in the afternoon and the next week it would be reversed. It worked pretty good!


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