It is obvious that people love their dogs. Many people would say that they see dogs treated like children. My dog even has a diaper…though he once had a rectal issue. At our office, we have a little Yorkshire Terrier named Harley, who gets perpetually cooed upon like a newborn baby.
In family law, what happens to these little pups when couples separate?
The (un)fortunate answer, depending on who you are speaking with, is that Courts, for the most part, refuse to treat pets like children. In Warnica v. Gering, an Ontario Superior Court decision, Mr. Warnica applied for joint shared custody of Tuxedo the dog. The Court dismissed the application at an early stage, suggesting that the Court should not be in the business of making custody orders for pets.
In Kitchen v. McDonald, 2012 BCPC 9, Mr. Kitchen sought an order of joint possession of Laddie the dog, with an order specifying possession time. Citing Warnica, the Judge dismissed Mr. Kitchen’s claim.
In Waugh v. Waugh, 2010 BCSC 110 the parties’ period of marriage and cohabitation was approximately 17 years, and they had one daughter; the paraplegic husband sought a custody order for the dog, Snipper. The Judge declined to make an order, but gave a direction that the dog should follow the daughter when she was having time with either parent.
In an Alberta case, Boyda v. Shaw, 2011 ABQB 572, Mr. Boyda gave the dogs away! The opposing party, Ms. Shaw, was therefore entitled to half the value assigned by the Judge, $1000/dog.
If it is not clear by now, people should also forget about any claim for doggie support.
The moral of the story is that if you are in a dispute about a family pet, mediation might be the best way to go!