Bill seeks support for pets when couples split up

For many families, pets are like children. So what happens to the animal if a couple calls it quits?

A lawmaker is hoping to make the separation process a little easier.

The proposed bill aims to protect the well-being of the pet while its owners are going through a divorce or annulment.

State Rep. Cindy Evans, D, North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala, tells KHON2 she’s hoping to clear the gray area that so many couples with pets find themselves in.

It’s something she’s experienced firsthand.

“People love their animals, they’re like children,” Rep. Evans said.

“I have had a few clients who have decided to get a pet together. It wasn’t one person’s or the others, and they did split up,” said Wendy Mah, an animal behaviorist with Sirius Puppy Training.

Emotions can take over when a couple goes their separate ways.

“Sometimes people react from an emotional base instead of common sense, and that animal could be a way to hurt someone,” Evans said.

It’s a tough scenario that Rep. Evans hopes to give clarity to.

“I relate to that because I went through a separation, and we had two dogs, and it was unpleasant to have that conversation,” she said.

You’ve heard of spousal support but what about pet support? If House Bill 155 is passed, a judge could order a spouse to pay for any pet-related expenses until court proceedings are done.

“I think what we’re trying to say in law is there is responsibility. The animal needs to be taken care of,” Evans said.

The measure would also allow a judge to decide if an animal should be shared until a divorce is finalized.

Mah tells KHON2 the proposal is long overdue.

“Pets have been elevated from just property to now they really are part of the family,” she said. “If both want custody of the pet, then they both need to be responsible for its upkeep.”

The bill has already passed the first reading and it’s up for discussion on Friday. How the the law would be enforced and what the penalties would be are some of the topics of discussion.

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