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Division of property and pets

Vancouver Family Pet Division Disputes are emotionally charged and often heart wrenching. My name is Susan Krampac and I am an articled student at MacLean Law. This past week I had the pleasure of working at one of our offices, located in lovely Kelowna. I had a wonderful time enjoying many of Kelowna’s offerings: wineries, sprawling greenery, tropical-like temperatures, and beautiful mountain trails. I especially adored the company of Audra Bayer, a MacLean Law senior associate, and her four-legged-furry friends.

Pets are not children

There is no doubt that dogs (cats too I suppose) have captured the hearts of many families, becoming irreplaceable members of the household. Some pet owners even consider their four-legged friends to be like children in today’s modern world. There is no doubt that Vancouver family pet division disputes are emotionally charged.

Despite the public’s overwhelming love for pets, the law in BC is clear when it comes to pets in family law disputes: pets are not children. Unlike issues involving children in family law, there is no such thing as “best interests of the pet.”

Pets are either considered excluded property or family property under BC’s Family Law Act. This means that if a pet was purchased before a relationship or gifted by someone outside the relationship, usually the pet will be the property of that spouse. If a pet was purchased during the spouses’ relationship, the court may take into account non-exclusive factors such as who the registered owner is, who initiated the purchase of the pet, and who cares for the pet. In the event the pet was expensive, a court may order one spouse to compensate the other for their half of the purchase. A recent Appeal case pet dispute made the news with one Judge stating a minority position that pets are more than just property. This view is a distinct minority legal position in Canada.

There is no such thing as pet custody

Most courts are adamant that these factors are not to be considered as an invitation to resolve “pet custody” issues in the future (Henderson v Henderson, 2016 SKQB 282, followed by Brown v Larochelle, 2017 BCPC 115). The court in Henderson even goes so far as to state that resolving pet issues in family law should be akin to dividing “butter knives.”

One of the most recent BC cases speaking to the treatment of pets in family law is Brown v Larochelle, 2017 BCPC 115. In this Vancouver Family Pet Division Disputes case, separated spouses were not able to agree on where their dog should reside and one of the spouses refused to share the dog.

Following similar cases in other provinces, the court in Brown stresses:

  • Parties should not be litigating over their pets. The courts do not take kindly to people who exhaust judicial resources and clog the family justice system, considering some families wait years to resolve their finances and child care upon separation.
  • Courts are highly unlikely to award “shared parenting” of a pet.
  • If you are concerned about your pet’s care after separation, discuss these issues with your spouse and put it into a separation agreement, instead of having a judge decide for you!

Our skilled family lawyers operate out of 7 offices across BC and in downtown Calgary. 

If you have a family law question concerning Vancouver Family Pet Division Disputes pets or any other family issue let us help you resolve matters in a cost-effective and successful manner.