There are only six states in the nation that allow dogs to be part of custody battles because, in the eyes of the law, they're family members. Is New York one of them?

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Pet Friendliness in NY

Family Walking Dog Through Snowy Woodland
Photo Credit - Monkey Business Images Ltd/Thinkstock

New York consistently ranks as one of the best places to live due to its abundance of attractions, access to life necessities and school systems. While these are very attractive qualities, there are Americans that are willing to completely disregard them if a state isn't animal friendly.

Unfortunately for the Empire State, it doesn't rank so highly when it comes to animal welfare.

The state's major metro areas like New York City, Rochester, and Buffalo were deemed some of the least pet-friendly places in the country. WalletHub cited the state's high veterinary care costs, dog insurance premiums, and lack of pet businesses as major contributing factors to its low score.

There are also pockets within the Empire State that struggle with a lack of veterinary care and pet-friendly housing.

Read More: Why Is It So Hard to Find Pet-Friendly Rentals in Central New York?

New York is behind in some aspects of pet ownership, especially since more U.S. households have dogs. Forbes found that in 2022, 66% of U.S. households owned a pet. Of that number, 65.1 million households said they owned a dog.

Pet owners also spent roughly $137 billion on their animals that year. However, the most interesting thing to come from the report was that a majority of dog owners were households that made over $100,000 a year.

Forbes also found New York to be the state with the 15th-highest number of devoted dog owners. These are people who are willing to break up with a significant other or have moved homes for their dog's sake.

On the other hand, New York is also the state with the least amount of dog owners. According to Zippia, New York was third last - coming behind Connecticut and Massachusetts.

How has all this affected pets in the eyes of New York's courts?

What Rights Does Your Dog Have?

Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash
Photo by Yuki Dog on Unsplash

The United States, as well as Canada and a majority of Europe, classifies dogs as property, which means  they are awarded much like household items in cases of separation or divorce.

New York State Law goes a step beyond and includes dogs as legal family members, thus ensuring ownership of a dog is determined much like a child custody battle. This also includes payment for expenditures like medical and veterinary care.

Read More: Shelter Dogs Becoming the Preferred Pet in New York State


New York passed the new law regarding pet custody in 2021, which had been sponsored by Democrat lawmaker James Skoufis. The bill passed almost unanimously on the floor, with 62 in favor and 1 opposed. Senate Bill 24248 earned then-Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature on October 25.

The official outline of the law says, "Relates to requiring the court to consider the best interest of a companion animal when awarding possession in a divorce or separation proceeding."

The only other states to hold the same point of view are Alaska, California, Illinois, Maine, and New Hampshire, according to Psychology Today.

Said the outlet:

When this concept is applied to the custody of a dog, it involves considering factors such as each person's ability and willingness to care for the pet, the relationship a child in the family may have with the pet, the relationship of the pet to various other family members, and additional factors associated with the well-being and safety of the animal.

The sentiment is now starting to gain traction in other parts of the world, including Canada and Colombia.

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17 Upstate New York Dog Parks for Your 'Good Boy' or 'Good Girl'

Lets face it, when the family dog is happy the whole family is happy! Dog parks are popping up in more and more communities across Upstate New York every day. Check out these 17 which cover every region of Upstate. Some are big, some are small. Some are basic running places, and others are elaborate dog playgrounds. And some even serve a glass of wine or craft beer for Mom and Dad to enjoy while Rover plays! Keep your furry friend happy at one of these dog parks today.

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