Blog Du Jour

Are Animal Marriages Legally Binding in New York?

Despite my research, I do not know the answer to this question: Are animal marriages legally binding in New York State?

What I do know is that there are people who, for a fee, will officiate animal marriages on the East End. They represent that they have married many local dogs, cats, hamsters and even turtles. These are typically pretty low key affairs and a minister charges the uber-wealthy and somewhat eccentric around $1,000 if the ceremony is performed in person and $500 over the phone or using online video, like Skype.

Opposites attract dog wedding
Opposites attract, Photo: Annette Shaff/iStock/Thinkstock

But are New York animal marriages really legal? And in the event of the death of a spouse, does the widow or widower animal have spousal rights? What about offspring?

Everyone knows New York real estate tycoon and “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley left her beloved dog Trouble a boatload of money when she passed. But what if Trouble had subsequently gotten married after Helmsley’s death? Would her canine hubby be the beneficiary of the inheritance after Trouble passed?

Leona Helmsley
Leona Helmsley

And what about same-sex animal marriages? Human same-sex marriages became officially legal in New York on July 24, 2011. So shouldn’t same-sex animal marriages also be legal?

These are all questions that need to be answered. As of this writing, my inquiry to the State of New York regarding marriage rights for animals has gone unanswered.

I called an online provider of ministerial certifications to see if they knew if animal marriages were legal in New York and they stated the following, “Our credentials and certifications do not preclude the recipient from conducting any type of marriages in New York or any other state.”

Still, I was not satisfied. To no avail, I searched the Twin Forks looking for a lawyer that specializes in animal marriage law. I did find representation if your animal bites someone. And I also found several attorneys who would show up in court if your animal is stolen, gets cited for not having a current tags or is caught roaming the beach off-leash during times that are not permitted, but I could not find any that had experience in animal marriages.

Interspecies pet wedding
Interspecies pet wedding, Photo: Rasulovs/iStock/Thinkstock

In this very important election year, I believe it is incumbent for one of our East End animal rights activists to attend and stand up at a future presidential debate and pose the question, “What is your stance on animal marriages?”

Until these questions are answered, I will remind East Enders to ensure the animals they love are properly taken care of in an emergency. In March 2013, The New York City Bar Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals published an article titled, “Providing for Your Pets In the Event of Your Death or Hospitalization.” I strongly recommend it.

Do you think animal marriages should be legally binding in New York? Let us know in the comments below.

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