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Massachusetts Restraining Orders Updated to Include Pets & Animal Possession

Issues between couples over ownership and possession of their pets can often be an extremely emotional and contested aspect of a domestic dispute. Until this past summer, Courts seldom addressed where "Fido" should go within District Court and Probate Court Retraining & Harassment Orders. As lawyers, we are aware that Courts typically treat pets as they would any other personal property. This past summer, legislation was amended which provided Courts with the authority to enter orders granting "possession, care or control over a domesticated animal...to the plaintiff or petitioner in such proceedings." Here is a link to the Trial Court's Memo on the new amendments. Interestingly, the act makes no mention of the Court's ability to order possession to the "defendant" in such proceedings. This would seem to imply that the Act does not intend to create a new forum where litigants may argue over possession of their pet. Massachusetts appears to have recognized that pets are no longer merely items of personal property, at least in proceedings involving Retraining/Harassment type orders. (...and yes, that is my dog, Buster.)

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