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Divorce can have a devastating effect on your pets: What you need to know

Divorce can affect our personal lives as well as the lives of our pets, reveals animal behaviourist Kate Mornement.

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Animals are often emotionally affected when a couple parts ways and can suffer from separation anxiety and depression. Speaking to ABC News, Mornement said, “I do see quite a few cases of pets with behaviour problems following separation or divorce… most commonly separation anxiety in dogs.”

She added, “Any big disruption to their normal routine or breaking of attachment bonds affects them a lot.”

However, much like when children witness their parents screaming and banging doors, pets are also left saddened by this behaviour, and for this reason a divorce could have a positive outcome for some pets.

“When couples do separate, it’s often a positive if there’s been any sort of verbal or physical abuse pets witness, like kids, that can cause some stress and anxiety,” Mornement explained.

Australia’s Animal Adoption Agency has also urged couples to think of their pets during their divorce, as they have witnessed the effects it has had on animals, many of whom have been abandoned because of a breakup.

At least 60 percent of current dogs looking for homes at Animal Adoption Agency are the result of a broken home. “One in four marriages ends in divorce,” Lee Amiti from Animal Adoption Agency said on the site. “Many times there is more than one pet in the effected [sic] household…it’s very sad but true”.

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Mornement’s earlier comments are echoed by Flinders University Ph.D. student Zoei Sutton, who revealed how owners tend to think of the pets as a source of comfort, without taking their needs into account.

“Pets are often kept with the children, as they are seen to provide a sense of ontological security to lessen the damage of separation on kids, however, this then can mean pets are shuttled between houses with kids rather than allowed to settle in one residence or can be left with the person not necessarily best suited to care for the animal,” Sutton told the outlet.

So, how do you take the necessary steps to ensure your pet’s happiness and well-being following a divorce?

Wag the Dog offers helpful tips and advice to owners who find themselves in these situations, including keeping your dog’s (or pets in general) schedule as normal as possible, making sure that you are extra-attentive and giving the dog a lot of love to make them feel safe. And if you are allowing the other owner to visit the pet, ensure that it’s a positive experience — don’t shout or argue in front of your pet.

Plus, the site notes that if you see your pet exhibiting signs of depression, it’s important to take them to the vet.

Business Insider also offers a comprehensive list on how to share your pet with your ex — without ripping out each other’s eyes. This list includes splitting the costs for your pet into two categories, basic and extraordinary, and establishing the rightful owner and understanding the custody agreement as well as deciding in advance how to handle your pet’s medical care if something were to go wrong.

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