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Many Couples Signing 'Pup Nups' To Prevent Future Legal Battles

BOSTON (CBS) - There are many things a couple can fight over during a divorce, including children, a house, and money. Increasingly there is another point of contention: pets.

Attorney Ann Margaret Carrozza said, "The pet custody issue can be absolutely devastating."

Keeping custody of her dog Bella cost Christine Gandy $8,000 in legal fees. "I've been saving for a house, and then it all went to my fees."

Attorney Gina Calogero had a client who spent more than $30,000 fighting to keep custody of her dog.

A survey of divorce attorneys found 25% reporting an increase in cases involving all kinds of animals.

Attorney Marshall Tanick said although most cases involve a cat or dog, he has seen birds, aquariums, and snakes be the source of tension.

Brookline dog owner Linda Tunnell of Brookline had a different problem. "When we split up, my ex moved out, and didn't take any responsibility for the dogs."

Living alone and working meant it would be hard to care for their dogs Hannah and Maverick by herself. "I tried to get some type of dog alimony, support, help," Tunnell explained.

Most pets are treated like property in the eyes of the courts, just like a house or a car.

"They don't go with who is the dog happiest with, who is the best pet mommy," said Calogero. Calogero said it is best for a couple to settle issues relating to pets before marriage in something that is now called a 'Pup-Nup.'

"The advantage of a 'Pup-Nup' is that you're negotiating it while you're in a relationship and you know what's in the dog's best interest."

In this type of agreement, the couple generally agrees who gets the pet before the animal comes home. Without this document, the couple can be left to negotiate a deal when feelings are hurt. Tanick added, "The simple agreement may be the parties exchange or have visitation rights with the pet every other weekend."

Tunnell felt lucky her children are grown, but says dealing with a break up and her dogs was tough. "It's heart wrenching," she explained. "There are laws to protect children. There are no laws to protect dogs."


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