**Previously recorded by Phyllis Schlafly // November 2014 **
The supposed standard for child custody in family courts is the “best interest of the child.” The Vermont supreme court has now extended that to also include the best interest of the family dog. While a Vermont couple was getting a divorce, an issue that came before the court was custody of their German pointer dog, Belle. Both individuals had strong emotional ties to Belle and a record of good care. The husband is a veterinarian and treated the dog like a dog while the wife treated the dog like a child, so the husband got sole custody of Belle. (Hament v. Baker, VT, Apr. 25, 2014)
Since the court applied a “best interest” analysis, it explained the difference between child and dog custody under the law. In both cases the judge can override the rights of the adults, and even reject agreements that the couple may have signed. The difference, according to the Vermont court, is that the legislature has given the family court judge authority to play a continuing role in supervising a child’s parents, but no authority to micro-manage dog care or, as the court says, “the care and sharing of a companion animal.” In other words, the court treats a parent like a child, and a dog owner like an adult.
Asking judges to decide the best interest is causing more and more mischief. Using judges and bureaucrats to override parental authority used to be just a left-wing fantasy. But so many people have been bamboozled by the slogan “best interest of the child” that it is rare for conservatives to oppose it. Marriage and family are not just being redefined to suit the gays and lesbians. They are being redefined to kill family autonomy and parental rights, and to bring child-rearing under the supervision of government so-called experts.