Understanding Pet Custody Laws in Texas

Divorce is often a challenging and emotional process, and the division of assets and property can be particularly contentious. In recent years, the issue of pet custody has gained significant attention, as more and more pet owners consider their furry friends as family members. At Petraborg Attorneys, we aim to shed light on pet custody laws in Texas and the factors that influence decisions on whether a dog, cat or other furry friend goes to one party or the other.

Understanding Pet Custody Laws in Texas

In the eyes of the law, pets are considered personal property, similar to furniture or other possessions. Texas follows the “community property” principle, which means that any assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered jointly owned by both spouses.

However, when it comes to determining who gets custody of a pet in a divorce, Texas law does not treat pets the same way as other assets. Rather than relying on the principle of community property, the courts take a different approach, considering the best interests of the pet involved.

Factors Influencing Pet Custody Decisions

Ownership and Purchase Records

If one spouse can provide evidence that they were the sole owner of the pet before the marriage, such as purchase receipts or adoption documents, it may strengthen their claim for custody. Establishing ownership before the marriage can be crucial in determining who gets custody of the pet. It is likely that this spouse will retain ownership of the pet.

  • Receipts from purchase from a breeder
  • American Kennel Club records
  • Adoption Certificates
  • Social Media posts from when you bought or adopted your pet that pre-date the marraige

Primary Caregiver

The court may consider which spouse has been the primary caregiver for the pet during the marriage. Factors such as feeding, grooming, exercise, and regular veterinary care can demonstrate a higher level of responsibility and dedication to the pet’s well-being. The primary caregiver is often favored in custody disputes. Gather together any records that you may have including:

  • Vet Bills
  • Obedience class attendance records
  • Special events you may have participated in like dog shows – even if they were just for fun
  • Any special work your pet does, like volunteering as a therapy animal at hospitals
  • Grooming records
  • Purchases of pet supplies like food, bedding and toys

Emotional Attachment and Bond

The emotional connection between a pet and each spouse is another factor that may influence the court’s decision. The judge may consider the bond formed between the pet and each spouse, evaluating which party can provide a more stable and nurturing environment to maintain the pet’s well-being.

Child-Related Considerations

If there are children involved in the divorce, the court may take into account the relationship between the pet and the children. In such cases, the best interests of the children and their emotional well-being may play a significant role in determining pet custody.

Ability to Provide Care

The court will also assess each spouse’s ability to provide proper care for the pet. Factors such as work schedules, living arrangements, and financial stability will be considered to ensure that the pet’s physical and emotional needs are adequately met.

  • A copy of your new apartment’s pet policy allowing pets
  • Photos of where the animal will live
  • Copy of your work schedule 
  • Any other arrangements for care, like use of a dogwalker, petsitter or doggie daycare.

Pet Pre-Nuptial Agreement

To avoid conflicts and uncertainties regarding pet custody, couples can include a pet pre-nuptial agreement as part of their marriage contract. This agreement can specify the ownership and custody arrangements for the pet in the event of a divorce, providing a clearer framework for resolving disputes.


While Texas law treats pets as property, the courts prioritize the best interests of the pet when determining custody arrangements in divorce cases. Ownership records, the primary caregiver’s role, emotional attachment, child-related considerations, ability to provide care, and pet pre-nuptial agreements can all influence the court’s decision.

Remember, it is always advisable to consult with a qualified family law attorney in Texas like Petraborg Attorneys to understand the specific legal aspects and requirements regarding pet custody in your divorce case. By approaching the matter with care and considering the well-being of the pet, we can increase the likelihood of reaching a fair and amicable resolution.

Contact Petraborg Attorneys regarding all matters related to family law, our Fair Family Divorce program and other legal matters at 832-698-1306, located in Spring, Texas.

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