On February 10, 2009, John DeWitt Gregory, Sidney and Walter Siben Distinguished Professor of Family Law, participated in a Continuing Legal Education Program sponsored by the New York Women’s Bar Association, titled “A Primer on Companion Animal Law”. The subjects addressed included Relationships Between Domestic Violence and Pet Abuse; Pet Housing Laws; and Death and Pet Trusts.
Professor Gregory shared the podium with Hon. Jaqueline W. Silberman, J.S.C. Retired, the former Administrative Judge for Matrimonial Matters who is currently of counsel, Blank Rome LLP. , on a panel devoted to Divorce and Pet Custody/Visitation. The focus of the discussion was on the treatment of pets in matrimonial decisions, and whether the best interest standard applicable to child custody and visitation decisions is appropriate in disputes involving pets or companion animals. Professor Gregory argued that the application of the best interest standard in such cases is entirely inappropriate, and that advocates will be better served by applying well developed principles of equitable distribution of property with which courts in matrimonial proceedings are intimately familiar. Simply stated, it is clear under existing law in all of the states that pets are property.
Professor Gregory’s participation in this program, a follow up to his recent involvement in a program on “Teen Animal Cruelty: Legal Issues and Practical Solutions” presented by the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Animals and the Law, is in furtherance of his current research related to the intersection of family law and the rich and rapidly developing field of animal law.