Who Gets the Dog? Pets in Property Division
Updated: May 29, 2022
Pets hold a special place in many people's homes and lives. Owners spend countless hours caring for them, and enjoying their company. When spouses are considering separation and divorce, division of family property is a critical question to be answered. A question I have received many times is "what happens with pets during a divorce? Can I go to Court for visitation or pet parenting time?"
Family property division in Saskatchewan is governed by The Family Property Act (a copy can be found here), The Family Property Act creates a regime where by default all family property will be divided equally between the parties, with some exceptions. To learn more about Family Property Division in Saskatchewan and how a family lawyer can help you, click here.
Pets are treated like all other property in a division. In the case of Henderson v Henderson, a 2016 Court of Queen's Bench decision by Justice Danyliuk, he was tasked with answering the same question on an interim basis (meaning during the time between the start of their separation and before their final order/trial). The Court stated:
Dogs are wonderful creatures. They are often highly intelligent, sensitive and active, and are our constant and faithful companions. Many dogs are treated as members of the family with whom they live.
But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law it enjoys no familial rights.
The Court continued to explain that while the two parties held the dogs in high regard, and considered them family members, that did not change the approach that the law required of the Court. Justice Danyliuk could not order a 'parenting' arrangement of any sort and instead made no order. He decided that he would leave it to the parties to decide their matters, as the Court could not provide any form of 'parenting' or shared ownership arrangement.
Knowing the law on the topic, many people may wonder if there is any alternative. Thankfully, there is. In a Separation Agreement the parties can agree to any terms that they wish. Simply put, if you or your spouse want to have shared ownership with a revolving schedule for your pets, it is completely lawful to make that agreement. Meeting with a lawyer to ensure that the agreement is crafted correctly is critical. For more information on separation agreements and how I can help, click here.