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DC bill would allow judges to grant joint custody of pets, consider their welfare in divorce cases

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The Washington, D.C., City Council is considering a bill that would allow judges in the District to grant joint custody of pets and consider their welfare in divorce cases. 

The legislation would permit D.C. judges to assign sole or joint ownership of a pet based on the care and best interests of the animal. The judge would also be authorized to issue an order to require a party to care for an animal, but an order providing for the care of the pet during the court proceedings would not impact the decision on ownership. 

The bill would additionally allow animal control vehicles to use emergency lights and sirens when they are responding to life-threatening situations. 

Dogfighting tools and equipment, sexual contact with animals and cat declawing would also be prohibited under the legislation. 

Pet store operators would also only be allowed to sell mammals, amphibians, reptiles, arachnids or birds if they are obtained from D.C.’s Animal Care and Control Agency, an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter, a Humane Society shelter or a rescue group in a cooperative agreement with at least one public or private shelter. 

Stores would be required to maintain sufficient records to document the source of their animals for at least one year. 

The bill was introduced by Democratic council members Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Charles Allen, Janeese Lewis George and Brooke Pinto last December, and the council unanimously approved it at a first reading of the bill earlier this month. 

D.C. law requires legislation to be approved by the council twice to go to the mayor for signature because the District only has one legislative body. 

A final vote is reportedly scheduled for Dec. 20. 

Axios reported that similar laws exist in California, Alaska and Illinois.

Tags animal welfare D.C. divorce proceedings joint custody pet welfare Washington D.C. Washington D.C.

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