Third Place, 2017 Howard C. Schwab Memorial Essay

The “De-Chattelization” of Companion Animals through Family Law Legislation: How Alaska’s H.R. 147 Has Dismantled the Traditional Property Law View of Pets

Morgan Chandler Handy

Dogs are chairs; they’re furniture; they’re automobiles, they’re pensions. They’re not kids.1 —Judge John Tomasello, New Jersey Superior Court

Introduction

Over 65 million households in the United States have a pet, otherwise known as a companion animal.2 Companion animals are defined as “animals who live and share their lives with human beings, who are responsive to and interact emotionally with their guardians, and who are valued as ends in themselves.”3 The term “companion animal” has been preferred by animal activists over the term “pet” because it better describes the relationship and roles between humans and domestic animals.4 Similarly, animal activists prefer the term “animal guardian” instead of “owner.”5

Dogs are chairs; they’re furniture; they’re automobiles, they’re pensions. They’re not kids.

Judge John Tomasello

New Jersey Superior Court

Premium Content For:
  • Family Law Section
Join - Now