What happens to your pet in bankruptcy?
by the Phoenix bankruptcy attorneys at Ariano & Reppucci
Pets can be very near and dear to our hearts through trying times. Many people even view them as family members. The question is – does the law view them the same way?
In bankruptcy, your personal assets and expenses must be disclosed whether you are filing under Chapter 13 or Chapter 7. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee will then look at all the property you own and will determine how to use your non-exempt assets to pay back creditors. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee is similar, except you will come up with a court-approved three to five year repayment plan that you will follow to repay creditors.
Does a household pet count as a personal asset?
In many states household pets are exempt from liquidation and thus are not viewed as property or personal assets.1 In Arizona a pet is considered a personal asset and should be listed in your bankruptcy.2 Since a pet is considered an asset, there are exemptions for domesticated pets listed in the Arizona bankruptcy code. Pets should be listed on Schedule B and you must list the pet and its value on Schedule C if you wish to exempt it from the bankruptcy estate.3
Does this mean that I have to give up my pet?
Most likely not. Your pet merely needs to be disclosed in your bankruptcy petition. There are broad categories of pets which are exempt up to a fair market value of $800.00 in Arizona. These include domestic pets, horses, milk cows, and poultry. A.R.S. § 33-1125(3). If you are married, the amount of exemption will be doubled to $1,600.00.4 This means that if you file jointly you will be able to keep $1,600 of your livestock or domesticated pets. Unless you have a show animal or one that is highly expensive, you have little to worry about. In fact, it is unlikely that the bankruptcy court will have much interest in your pet either way.5 Pets may be listed as “property” under the bankruptcy code but they do not offer much in terms of value to creditors.6
Courts are pretty liberal about what constitutes a pet, and often in the debtor’s favor.7 For example, in an Idaho case the court considered the relationship between a horse that lived outside and the debtors before concluding that the pet was a member of the household and thus considered exempt.8
If you are worried about your current situation with your pet or livestock, it is best to consult with an experienced bankruptcy attorney who will help you navigate your situation. At Ariano & Reppucci you will be immediately connected with an experienced and dedicated bankruptcy lawyer.
 Elizabeth Paek, Fido Seeks Full Membership in the Family: Dismantling the Property Classification of Companion Animals by Statute, 25 U. Haw. L. Rev. 481, 512 (2003).
2 Whitney G. Coats, Good News for Arizona Bankruptcy Filers…Newly Updated Arizona Bankruptcy exemptions to Take Effect September 13, 2013, danafirm.com, http://www.danafirm.com/resources/articles/bankruptcy/newly-updated-arizona-bankruptcy-exemptions/ (last visited Nov. 17, 2014).
3 Elizabeth A. Hornbrook, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Pet Care Expenses in Bankruptcy, Am. Bankr. Inst. J., April 2014, at 56, 56.
4 Olga Zlotnik, Will I Lose My Pet If I File For Bankruptcy?, olgazolotniklaw.com (May 5, 2013), http://www.olgazlotniklaw.com/will-i-lose-my-pet-if-i-file-for-bankruptcy/.
5 Jackson White, Filing Bankruptcy Without Losing The Farm: Arizona Bankruptcy Attorney, jacksonwhitelaw.com, http://www.jacksonwhitelaw.com/arizona-bankruptcy/2011/01/29/filing-bankruptcy-without-losing-the-farm-arizona-bankruptcy-attorney/ (last visited Nov. 17, 2014).
6 Elizabeth A. Hornbrook, supra note 3.
8 In re Gallegos, 226 B.R. 111, 111 (Bankr. D. Idaho 1998).