If you and your spouse own a pet, it is likely that it is part of your family. The idea of losing all rights to that pet in the divorce may be devastating to you. However, this could happen. According to the ABA Journal, the law considers pets assets or property.
When dividing property in a divorce, deciding who gets the pet happens the same as it would with any other property. It largely depends on whether it is marital or non-martial property. Marital property includes anything you or your spouse obtain during the marriage. Non-martial property is anything you had before marriage or get after your separation.
So, if you got the dog before your marriage, then the judge will probably find it is your separate property. If you got the dog after your marriage, then it is marital property. There is an exception. Gifts fall outside the normal marital property rules. If one of you gave the pet to the other as a gift, then it becomes separate property. You will have to prove it was a gift to get this exception.
Many state laws are changing to treat pets more like children, setting up visitations and custody arrangements. Although, courts will likely never treat pets exactly the same since courts are not likely to want to manage custody arrangements as they do with children. Still, in states with these laws, it can help pet owners to find a way to share ownership. Unfortunately, Washington has not yet made such a law, but the trend is moving towards all states eventually having one in place.