Breaking up is hard to do. Couples must agree on who gets what, often leading to disputes over anything from furniture to dishes. Things get far more complicated in custody cases, where couples must agree or let a judge decide how living beings will split their time between parents. The laws governing this process as it relates to human beings is quite clear but things get a bit murky when fur babies enter the equation.
Jessica Sardina of Bangor, Maine sought to clear this up in her fight for custody of a beloved adopted dog named Honey. She and her former boyfriend, Kelvin Liriano, were sharing a life together under the same roof, that included Honey, an adorable Boxer-Lab mix. Despite the fact that the dog was officially adopted by Liriano, Sardina was Honey’s mama and the pair were apparently tightly bonded.
All 50 states consider animals to be property and they are treated as such in cases involving divorce. Custody agreements are reserved for human offspring with the exception of the states of California, Alaska, and Illinois. Marriages being dissolved in those states are subject to special rules governing the custody of pets. Sardina and her lawyer felt that it was high time that pets fall under custody rules, not those governing property. They continued fighting her case all the way to the Supreme Court of Maine.
Gene Sullivan, Sardina’s attorney said, ““Hey, this is not a toaster. This is not a blender. This is a living, breathing animal that these parties, especially my client, grew an attachment to.”
A lower court ruled in favor of Liriano based on the fact that his signature appeared on Honey’s adoption paperwork. He was deemed the sole “owner” of Honey and thus, should be allowed to maintain ownership. In their appeal to the higher court, Sullivan argued for Sardina that this view of an animal as property to be owned is antiquated.
Further, Sardina claimed that she did the majority of the care taking and had a closer bond to Honey than the “owner” did. She claimed that Liriano did not have the proper funds or time to properly care for Honey and that he is an unfit pet parent.
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About a month ago, I ordered this custom, handmade leather collar for Honey. It will remind me every day that everything I’m doing right now, I’m doing for her. Until the day she comes home to wear it, it will serve as my reminder to do everything I can to make that happen. Merry Christmas, Honey girl. Your mama misses you more than you know. ❤️❤️❤️ #TheHoneyLaw #comehomesoon
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maine, Leigh Saufley, admitted that the case tugs at the heartstrings and anyone would feel bad for a person who has to lose their beloved pet in a break up. However, she questioned whether deciding on the case was a good use of the court’s time and resources, particularly in a case involving a couple that was not married.
Ultimately, Honey was deemed to be the “property” of Liriano and Sardina’s battle was lost. In her Instagram feed, Sardina has shared numerous videos and photos of her and Honey together that demonstrate how much love was alive between them. Not a peep is to be found from Liriano in defense of himself or his right to maintain custody of Honey, but let’s hope he is making a happy, loving home for her today and forever more.
What is your take? Should Honey be viewed as “property” or treated more like human children are treated in these cases? Does it matter that the couple wasn’t married? Share your thoughts with the iHD community!
Featured Image Jessica Sardina Instagram
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