N.Y.'s First Matrimonial Pet Custody Case

A judge to decide the fate of a pup caught up in a divorce
By JoAnna Lou, December 2013, Updated July 2016

Shannon Louise Travis and Trisha Bridget Murray are getting a divorce, but there's only one thing they really care about--their Dachshund, Joey. The former couple is about to go to court over who gets to keep the 2-year old pup--New York's first matrimonial pet custody case.

Shannon and Trisha's ordeal is becoming more common as pets shfit in our culture to being true members of the family. New York City Justice Matthew Cooper summed up the predicament saying, "People who love their dogs almost always love them forever. But with divorce rates at record highs, the same cannot always be said for those who marry."

According to Judge Cooper, New York lags behind other states in the legal standing of pets. In a city with canine concierges and dedicated pet taxis, it's surprising that this hasn't come up before (there have been non-divorce custody cases). But Joey will not be treated like property. In the hearing, Judge Cooper will be looking to see who was responsible for Joey's needs and will ask questions similar to those used in child custody cases.

Judge Cooper will have a difficult decision to make as the outcome of this case will certainly influence future pet custody cases. But it sounds like they have the right person for the job.


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Judge Cooper said, "If judicial resources can be devoted to such matters as which party gets to use the Escalade as opposed to the Ferrari, or who gets to stay in the Hamptons house instead of the Aspen chalet, there is certainly room to give real consideration to a case involving a treasured pet." 

Judge Cooper is a dog lover himself and his 12-year old rescue, Peaches, gives him a special interest in making sure this case gets the attention it deserves.


JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.