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A problematic Rhode Island House bill, H. 7361, regarding Contested Pet Ownership, is scheduled for public hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on February 12, 2020.  The bill would allow an individual to bring a complaint in equity to the district court during dispute over pet ownership of formerly cohabitating people and ask the court to determine the domestic animal’s “best interests”, similar to awarding child custody in a divorce proceeding.  This is a significant departure from current Rhode Island law, which allows any party that might have a dispute over the ownership of a dog, cat, bird, horse or other domestic animal to file their equity action in the Superior Court. Upon the conclusion of the case, any aggrieved party seeking further judicial review could then file an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) agrees that dogs should be kept in an environment where their health and needs are best addressed. Our concern is that “well-being” criteria are those usually reserved to protect the interests of minors or other people lacking legal capacity.  Furthermore, the bill calls into question the legal tradition of pets being treated as property.  The AKC believes that traditional legal treatment ensures that animals are protected by cruelty laws and other animal-focused laws while also protecting ownership rights.


  1. The committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, at 4:30pm, in Room 205 of the State House, 82 Smith St, Providence, RI 02903. Those wishing to testify in person are advised to provide 23 copies of the testimony in writing for the committee’s use.   Please mark the written testimony with the bill number, H. 7361.
  2. Concerned residents unable to attend are encouraged to contact the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and committee members, via the Committee’s Clerk, to directly express concerns.

Chairman Robert E. Craven, Sr. –

Committee Clerk Roberta DiMezza –

AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) will provide additional information on these bills prior to the hearing and as developments warrant.  For more information, contact AKC GR at