No, you will not lose your family pet in a Bankruptcy case. Technically, pets are “personal property” that should be listed in Schedule B. Of course, most of us with pets view them more as members of the family than something like an end table. My goldens and labs have had the run of my house for many years. There are two main reasons why you do not have to worry about losing your pet if you have to file for Bankruptcy. Most importantly, as valuable as our pets are to us, a pet has virtually no monetary value to the Bankruptcy estate or creditors. A Trustee is not going to feed and house a dog or cat and then put it up for auction. Conversely, people who wants pets will get one from a reputable breeder or a rescue group – not a Bankruptcy auction. The second reason you will not lose your pet in Bankruptcy is that the Trustee, Judge and others in the system do not exist to make your life unhappy. Sure, Bankruptcy is often not a pleasant thing to face but none of us are here to punish you with something like threatening to take your pet. In more than 20 years of practice, I have never even heard of anyone raising the question.
That said, I do have to add some caveats. Animals used in a business, such as a dairy farm or dog breeding business, are more accurately described as “livestock” and not pets. If they have significant (unexempt) value, it is certainly possible that a Trustee will consider whether they will bring in money to the estate. In addition, if the pet clearly has a significant value on the market, such as a horse or dog that brings in income as a breeder or a dog that may have been a winner in the Westminster Dog Show, it is possible a Trustee would take a second look. Even then, the Trustee would consider the time and trouble of selling a single animal and just finding people who were interested in buying one. That is a relatively rare circumstance in the real world, and more so in a Bankruptcy case. Remember, Trustees are looking to net several thousand dollars for the estate, not a few hundred dollars for a breeder animal. In short, to repeat, no you will not lose the family pet if you have to file a Bankruptcy case.
Photo Credit: My dog, Maddie the Mad Dog.