Is Fido chattel? Perhaps not for much longer in Pennsylvania

By Dawn Padanyi, Esquire

What is chattel you ask?  The easy answer is that chattel is movable personal property not to be confused with real estate.

So is your beloved family Schnauzer consider chattel under the law?  Well, yes, under the current state of the law, Fido the Schnauzer is considered chattel.  However, some Pennsylvania lawmakers are proposing a change to the law under Title 23 Domestic Relations.

House Bill 1652 basically proposes a special category for Fido the Schnauzer, as a “companion animal.”  A companion animal according to the proposed bill,

“Includes an animal that:

(1) is a domesticated, living being commonly referred to as a pet; or

(2) has been bought, bred, raised or otherwise acquired in accordance with applicable law for the primary purpose of providing the owner with assistance in relation to a disability, security or companionship, rather than for business or agricultural purposes.”

The intent of the Bill is “that special consideration be extended to companion animals when the division of personal property is planned or determined under this part.”

For lack of a better description, the bill creates guidelines for the Court in determining pet custody.  The bill further states the following:

“(g) Companion animal. — Upon the request of either party, the court shall provide for the possession or care, or both, of a companion animal of the parties. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Whether the companion animal was acquired prior to or during the marriage.

(2) The basic daily needs of the companion animal.

(3) The party who generally facilitates veterinary care for the companion animal.

(4) The party who generally provides the companion animal with social interaction.

(5) The party who generally ensures the compliance with State and local regulations regarding the companion animal.

(6) The party who provides the greater ability to financially support the companion animal.”

This is a departure for how the Court handle, division of personal property/pets now.  As it stands now, the Court typically does not establish a custody schedule for Fido, but merely states which party will have ownership of Fido after parties’ divorce.

It will be an interesting change to the law should this bill pass and I’m sure Fido will be pleased to know that he is not just another piece of chattel, but holds a special spot in the law, just as he holds a special place in many families.

You can read the full bill at the following link: