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December 10, 2019
You Can Love Your Pet, But You Can’t “Love” Your Pet

As a matter of common sense, and as a matter of law, having sex with your pet is a bad idea. Sexual intercourse with an animal, it turns out, is a crime, which does affect your custody and visitation rights.

Penal Code Section 286.5 provides that any person who sexually assaults any animal for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person is guilty of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor offenses are punishable with imprisonment for up to one year of time served.

A corollary statute is Penal Code 597 (b), which makes anyone who engages in cruelty or neglect towards a pet, if found guilty, punishable as either a misdemeanor or even a felony offense.

How, you ask, does that apply to a Family Law Case?

First, where custody of minor child is at issue, this type of deviant sexual behavior is viewed as evidence that the offending parent may be a risk to the minor child. I say “may be” because to establish this, competent counsel must be able to prove the deviant behavior occurred, and then must show a nexus of the deviant sexual behavior with potential danger to the child. The hard part, sadly, is getting the evidence that the pet is being sexually abused. The nexus is more easily shown; it has been our experience that the deviant parent will have additional concerning behaviors which, added together (and often with the assistance of expert testimony) provide sufficient proof that the Courts are reluctant to give the offending parent any substantial, or unsupervised, visitation with the child.

Second, “new” laws regarding custody of pets also come into play. This is not so complicated as protecting the children from the deviant parent, particularly where one party has been criminally convicted for the molestation or abuse/neglect of a pet. The criminal court’s orders will be that the offending parent shall not own or possess another pet, which – obviously – simplifies the custody fight over the animal in family court.

All in all, this is an unsettling topic. But… this happens, and people need to know the courts don’t turn a blind eye towards this behavior. Competent, skilled counsel is nonetheless important to ensure the Court has what it needs to protect the child (and the pet) in these cases. Counsel has to do a good job gathering proof and getting that evidence admitted, and must establish the nexus between the bad behavior and the risk to the child. If we can do our part, the Court will do the rest.

I take comfort in that.

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