Can Fido keep me from seeing my child?
Well, maybe, if it’s in your child’s best interest from a health and welfare standpoint. When your son or daughter is allergic to your dog, cat or other pet, you might not be able to have your child in your home. You probably could still have parenting time outside your home if there are no other issues that would prevent that.
A couple of Florida cases shed light on why visitation by an allergic child to a parent’s home where the offending animal also resides may not be in that child’s best interest in the eyes of the court.
Eight cats and a cat allergy
In Rescigno v. Annino, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District, said in 2004 that it because it was not in two young children’s best interest, the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered them to have six months of allergy shots for severe cat allergies so that they could have overnight visits with their dad who lived with eight cats.
Medical evidence in the case showed that both boys had severe cat allergies, asthma and hyperactive airways, conditions for which they had spent time in the hospital. Deep cleaning and air filters would not solve the dander problem in the father’s house if the cats remained. Six months of shots would not be long enough and might not even be successful.
It is all about children’s best interests
The appeals court said that it was not in the children’s best interests to have the shots to try to achieve safe overnight visitation. The court said that continuing to expose them to cat dander with no guaranty of resolution of the problem was contrary to their welfare, so if the father wanted overnight visitation, he would have to get rid of the cats and stringently clean his home with expert guidance first.
Similarly, the Fifth District said in Palmer v. Palmer in 2016 that where a child of divorced parties was allergic to dogs, the trial court had abused its discretion when it did not include in its divorce orders a restriction on that child’s exposure to the father’s girlfriend’s dogs. The psychological benefits of the child’s exposure to pets did not overcome the harm to his physical health.
Talk to an attorney if you have questions about parenting time that involves pets and a child’s allergy or any similar situation where time with one of the parents is somehow detrimental to the child’s best interests.
(Rescigno v. Annino is available on Westlaw at 869 So.2d 741.)