The November 28th Patriot Ledger reported that Judge James Menno, of the Plymouth Probate and Family Court, had entered the first court order of protection for a pet, permitted under a recent statutory enactment signed by Governor Patrick. LDRC’s Chouteau Levine recalls from her years on the bench that serious abuse cases routinely included threats of and/or acts of abuse towards human victim’s pets. Abuse is abuse, whatever its manifestation. That Judge Menno made the first order of this kind in Massachusetts is both random and fitting. No judge has a bigger heart or inclination to use his bench authority to protect and benefit his litigants and their dependents.
Dogs have long been recognized for their forensic and security usefulness to police and military institutions, as guides for the blind and most commonly, as beloved family members. In an era in which offices, hospitals, therapists and even courts are using or experimenting with pets as aides to reducing stress their own uniquely stressful environs, the role and importance of pets continues to grow. We have seen this principle at work in our own practice at LDRC.
For restructuring families, the disposition of pets is a growing demand. Some states have dipped their toes into “pet custody”. We have not, which is probably appropriate. Pets remain “property” under our divorce framework. But, under Massachusetts law, people may now fund testamentary trusts to provide for care of a pet; and now Judges like Menno may enhance the security of these important members of our society.
Good for Judge Menno, and good for all of us.