Dividing the Bassets

  • Brits believe a pet owner is the primary carer, not the person who paid for the animal, its food or veterinary treatment
  • 41 per cent of owners would give up ownership of their pet to their partner in event of a break up
  • 28 per cent of pet owners have, or would consider a legal ‘pet-nuptial’ agreement in the event of a break up

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of people would consider a prenuptial agreement that covers their pets in case of a breakup according to new research from Direct Line Pet Insurance1. The rise of these ‘pet-nuptial’ arrangements shows how seriously people take their relationships with their pets, considering them in a similar way as they would children.

A ‘pet-nuptial’ is a deed of agreement2 between the parties who set out clearly what will happen in relation to the pets in the event of a relationship breakdown or the parties are no longer living together. Pet-nuptials can be specifically drafted to apply to an individual case in the event of a separation caused by divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership or the end of cohabitation or a split from university friends who are no longer going to stay in the same accommodation.

The normal content of a pet-nuptial will resolve where the pet will live, how often each of the parties should see the pet, who will pay for the costs of the pet or insurance, and a multitude of other issues specific to the parties themselves.

When it comes to pet ownership, people don’t believe animals should be treated like property, with the purchaser being considered the legal owner. The majority of Brits (58 per cent) believe ownership should be determined by the person who is the primary carer. Despite the fact that the carer may not have purchased the pet, the relationship with the dog or cat should be the main consideration when deciding on ownership.

Just one in six (15 per cent) would say that the person who purchased the animal, or collected it from the rescue shelter, should be considered its owner and a mere one in 20 believe that the person who pays for food and vet treatment (both four per cent) should be considered its owner.

Table one: Factors which constitute ownership of a pet

Factor Percentage who believe this constitutes ownership
The person who is the primary carer for the animal 58%
The person who purchased the animal / collected it from a shelter 15%
The person you believe the animal prefers / likes best 5%
The person who pays for the majority of food for the animal 4%
The person who pays the majority of the veterinary bills for the animal 4%

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2017

Vanessa Lloyd-Platt, divorce lawyer at Lloyd Platt & Co Divorce Solicitors said: “I would recommend anyone entering into a relationship involving a pet to set out in detail what should occur in the event the relationship breaks down to avoid later arguments over who owns the animal, and more importantly who should pay for the cost of its care. Legal remedies are very limited but can cost thousands of pounds.

“All of this can be avoided by the drafting of a simple pet‐nuptial deed of agreement. The clauses have often included who will pay for the insurance, the cost of vet bills, the funeral or cremation costs, where the pet will be housed during holidays, how they should be cared for, who will be responsible if there is a breach of the law, and in the case of dogs, who will own any valuable puppies. These are issues that owners should consider particularly in the excitement of purchasing a pet suddenly, which they can find themselves having to think about when the relationship breaks down.“

In the event of a break up, pet owners would consider a number of arrangements with their ex‐partner when it comes to ‘dividing the bassets’, the most popular being giving up ownership of the pet to their partner (41 per cent) and setting up a financial agreement to look after the pet (40 per cent). One in ten would even consider having their pet put down in the event of a break up.

Prit Powar, head of pet insurance at Direct Line said: “A break up is always a difficult time, but ensuring care for our pets is vital as it can be a stressful time for them as they feed off their carers’ emotions and may be displaced from their home and routine. We urge owners to think about their animal’s welfare when making significant decisions and not use them as a bargaining tool. Whatever you decide about who the animal should live with, be sure to let your insurer know so they have the correct contact details.“

Table two: Arrangements people have put in place or would consider in the event of splitting with a partner

Arrangement Percentage who have done or would consider this
Giving up ownership of the pet to my partner 41%
Setting up a financial agreement to look after the pet 40%
Giving up ownership of the pet to a friend / family member 36%
Paying my partner for full ownership 35%
Shared custody of the pet 31%
Giving the pet to a shelter / rescue centre 21%
Selling the pet 17%
Having the pet put down 10%

Source: Direct Line Pet Insurance 2017

Notes to editors

1 Research conducted by Opinium amongst a representative sample of 2,005 adults completed between 31st January – 3rd February

2 http://www.divorcesolicitors.com/News/Help-for-pet-disputes.html

For further information please contact:

Claire Foster
Direct Line
claire.foster@directlinegroup.co.uk
0165 183 1672

Charlotte Pascal
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
charlotte.pascal@citigatedr.co.uk
0207 282 1021

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. UK Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com

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