Iowa law treats dogs as personal property often leaving divorce litigants without judicial remedy
November 5th, 2013
One of the most frequent inquries we receive has to do with who gets to keep the dog(s) or pet(s) in an Iowa divorce. While you may treat your dogs as children, the Iowa courts treat them as personal property. When faced with the issue the Iowa Court of Appeals stated, "[a] dog is personal property and while the courts should not put a family pet in the position of being abused or uncared for, we do not have to consider the best interests of a pet." In re Marriage of Stewart, 356 N.W.2d 611 (Iowa Ct. App. 1984). Despite this rule, it is my experience that the court's generally award the dog or pet to the party who historically has provided a majority of its care. However, they are not vested with the authority to grant a visitation or custody schedule for the other party. Accordingly, we often encourage our clients to informally work out a visitation schedule regarding their dogs, in lieu of submitting the matter to a judge.