Senate passes Senator Chipman bill to support animal rights

Posted: June 07, 2021 | Senator Chipman

AUGUSTA — On Thursday, the Maine Legislature passed a bill from Senator Ben Chipman, D-Portland, to provide for the care of animals. LD 535, “An Act To Provide for the Well-being of Companion Animals upon the Dissolution of Marriages,” requires the court to consider the well-being of a companion animal in the ending of a marriage.

“This bill provides reasonable and helpful criteria for judges to determine ownership of pets following a separation or divorce,” said Senator Chipman. “Maine is ranked first in the nation for welfare of animals, and this bill will continue to make Maine a leader in animal welfare across the country.”

LD 535 would provide that in the legal proceedings of a divorce, the judge must consider the companion animal’s well-being in the disposition of property. Factors such as financial support, instances of domestic violence, the emotional attachment of any child in the home and any benefit to the child, and energies devoted to daily basic needs among others are all to be taken in to account by the judge. LD 535 outlines the factors for the court to consider and treats companion animals less like property and more like sentient beings.

“Known as ‘pet custody laws,’ this common-sense type of legislation seeks to protect animals, who are distinct from property in many ways, as well as protect the people involved in the proceedings,” said Stephanie J. Harris, of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in testimony in support of the bill. “Particularly in situations involving domestic violence – an increasing concern during this period of lockdown, shelter-in-place, and physical and social distancing. Our animal companions are family.”

LD 535 faces further votes in the Legislature.