Linkedin IconInsta Icon

Pet Ownership Disputes

By Melissa Gire, Associate Solicitor

Pet ownership disputes are becoming increasingly common; typically when a couple is in the process of separating.  

Pets are still viewed as chattels, i.e. personal possessions, and the legal position is that the person who paid for the pet is the legal owner and gets to keep the pet. If there is a dispute, the parties can try to resolve matters through mediation, negotiations through solicitors, one owner can buy the other out or a small claims case can be issued through the County Court.  

The court will consider a variety of information when determining pet ownership and a District Judge is entitled to give such weight to this evidence as they deem fit. The court will consider a variety of factors when making a decision, such as:

  • Was the pet bought as a gift?
  • Was the pet bought prior to the relationship or during the course of the relationship (and if the latter, were you living together at the time)?
  • Who bought the pet (whose name is on the contract made with the rescue centre or breeder)?
  • Whose name is registered with the Kennel Club?
  • Who pays the day-to-day expenses for the pet?
  • Who is registered on the insurance certificate?
  • Who usually takes care of the pet?
  • Who is registered on the microchip database?
  • Whose name is recorded at the vet’s practice?

If the Court rules that the pet is jointly owned, the Court may order that:

  • possession of the pet be shared, or
  • one party has the pet (although there are no legal rules on how this should be determined), or
  • that the disputing parties sell the pet and share the proceeds.

An example of a recent case is that of TV star Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong where the Court granted shared custody of the dog, Hurley, on a week-by-week basis. 

The easiest way to avoid any difficulty is to pre-empt the issue by considering entering into a pre-nuptial agreement (if you are to marry) or co-habitation agreement (if you do not intend to marry).  These agreements can set out any arrangements for care and ownership of the family pet in the event of a breakdown in the relationship. 

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact Melissa Gire on email: or Gemma Gillespie on email: or tel: 01892 515022.

This blog is not intended as legal advice that can be relied upon and CooperBurnett LLP does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of its contents.

featured Categories:


February 21, 2024
Get In Touch


Related articles you might like...

We use basic cookies to enhance your experience. By continuing to visit this site you agree to our use of cookies. More info