Judge chastises divorcing couple for bringing dog dispute to court

The judge told the couple that dogs are not children and will not be treated that way by his court.
The judge told the couple that dogs are not children and will not be treated that way by his court. (Photo: iStock)

A Saskatchewan judge who was asked to determine who should get to keep two dogs over which a divorcing couple were fighting, called the case, “somewhat ridiculous.”

The couple, who had been married for over 15 years, never had children but acquired pets together. Though they had several dogs, they were only fighting over the dogs they named Kenya and Willow, because they couldn’t agree who should keep the dogs and on visitation rights.

The wife asked the court to deal with the dogs more like a child custody dispute, because some courts in other provinces have done so. The judge refused.

He told the couple that dogs are not children and will not be treated that way by his court. Though he did acknowledge that pets are a bit more than property, he also told the couple, “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.”

When asked to make a decision about visitation rights, the judge said: “Am I to make an order that one party have interim possession of (for example) the family butter knives but, due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?”

Even though many owners treat their pets like loving members of the family, pets are not considered to be sentient beings under Canadian law. Though we have federal and provincial anti-cruelty legislation, a pet is still considered property. During divorce proceedings, pets are dealt with by division of property legislation in provincial family law.

Since pet custody disputes are essentially about property division, the judge told the couple that given the delay and backlog the court is already facing, bringing a case like theirs to the court “is wasteful.”

The case was dismissed.
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