Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Divorce is difficult.
Beyond the emotional toll, dividing up belongings accrued during the relationship and deciding custody of children can make a hard situation even more challenging.
But what happens to the canine and feline companions to whom both parties have a strong emotional connection when a couple divorces?
Rep. Anita Astorino Kulik, D-Allegheny County, is hoping to set more clear-cut rules so pets don’t get left out in the cold.
“As an attorney, I witnessed too many divorce proceedings in which a couple could not agree on the best arrangement for a beloved pet,” Kulik wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “At times, a pet can be used by one party as leverage against the other when negotiating the division of assets. Current law provides no special provisions for pets, instead treating them as if they were a couch or another inanimate object.”
House Bill 1652 would set up guidelines for judges determining the best custody arraignment for the pets involved.
The guidelines would include factors like whether the pet was purchased before the marriage, who takes care of the pet’s daily needs, who is usually in charge of taking the pet to the veterinarian and who has the greater ability to financially support the animal.
“This bill would ease one facet of the difficult divorce process by giving judges the ability to recognize the emotional attachment we have to our pets, as well as the well-being of a companion animal when determining its custody and care,” Kulik wrote.
The bill would also allow couples to reach an agreement outside the divorce decree.