LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS FOR DOGS? I could get stuck with Marmalade!

Everybody knows that Marmalade is Virginia (my wife’s) dog.

I was out of town one Saturday last December when I got a text message from one of the kids with a picture of Marmalade in the back of our minivan coming to our house from Virginia’s place of work (San Francisco Animal Care and Control.)

Marmalade had not been doing well in the shelter environment, so Virginia decided to bring her to our house for a few days on a “home visit.” The home visit turned into fostering and then Virginia signed the official adoption papers.  You can see by all accounts this dog is her dog!

Well, Governor Brown may have just thrown this very clear-cut argument into turmoil when he signed AB 2274 into law last week.  Prior to last week, dogs in California were treated like all other community property and could be simply divided when pet parents decided to separate through a divorce.

The judge didn’t take into consideration who did what for the dog (or other pet) when making a decision on the future of the dog.  So, in my case, should Virginia and I go our separate ways I could also walk away from Marmalade.

AB 2274 now says that the judge, upon request of either party in a divorce, may take into account who cares for the dog when deciding who gets the dog.
Care is defined in the law as “includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.”

I suspect that in most cases this a good thing for both the parties in the divorce and for the dog or other pets.  But for me, it could turn out poorly.

Frankly, it’s pretty clear that I do way more “care” of Marmalade than Virginia.

This means that AB 2274 allows Virginia to request that the judge decide that I provide more care and thus I could get stuck with her!
Virginia would get to walk away dog free!  The law was probably intended to be a tool to allow one party to advocate for themselves that they should be the one to keep the dog – but in our case it would allow Virginia to force me to keep the dog.

Where’s the justice in this?  She brings a dog home from work and then adopts the dog, but if we divorce she can hoist the dog onto me?  Sure, Marmalade is a wonderful dog and would have been a wonderful San Francisco Mayor, but does this mean Virginia and some judge can force me to take care of her?  Can one person really force another to be a pet parent?
Now before you get angry at me, as much as I tease Marmalade, she is a wonderful dog and I am thrilled that Virginia brought her home to us.

I am so fortunate, as I guess is Marmalade, that she spends the work day with me at Pet Camp, weekend mornings walking around Noe Valley and the Mission, and of course, visiting our favorite pet friendly bars on Potrero Hill and South of Market in the evening for a cold one.

Thanks for reading!

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