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Pet lovers in Illinois have a reason to rejoice. As of the first of 2018, pets will be viewed more like children instead of like property when a couple who has a furbaby goes through a divorce. Up until then, the family dog, cat or other pet was treated in the same manner as the painting above the sofa.

SB1261 goes into effect on the first of the year. This bill means that judges who are hearing divorce cases need to think about what is in the best interests of the pets when they make rulings about where pets will live. This puts pets on a similar plane as children in these cases.

Illinois follows Alaska in making the decision to change the way pet custody is determined. These states now realize that pets are members of the family and that they deserve to have proper care, regardless of what the pet parents have going on in their lives.

With this law going into effect, couples who are divorcing need to take the time to evaluate the situation. While this does provide protection for the pets, it also makes it more difficult for decisions to be made when exes have to get together to decide the terms of the divorce.

One thing to note is that service dogs aren’t included in this bill. A person who has a service dog will retain custody of that dog since the dog was specially trained to handle the challenges of the legal handler.

Overall, this is a positive change for pets in Illinois. Hopefully, it will prevent the furry family members from being used as leverage for one person to get his or her way in the divorce.

Source: WAND-TV, “Divorce and Pets,” Michon Lindstrom, Dec. 15, 2017