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Pet Custody in a Canada Divorce

When a couple gets divorced, there are a lot of elements to deal with. Property division and child custody are the biggest ones. But what happens to pets in an Ontario divorce? Who gets to keep the dog?

The law is not cut and dry in this regard. With more and more couples opting out of human children and focusing on furry and feathered ones instead, new laws arguably need to be created or updated when it comes to pet custody. 

In recent years, there has been an uptick in divorces as COVID lockdowns created quarantines and work from home policies, forcing couples to spend more time together. Relationships are reaching their breaking points and Canadians are relying on lawyers to help them decide who gets to keep the family pet

But it’s not just Canada. Pet custody battles are also on the rise in other countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom. Cats and dogs are not the only pets involved. Couples are also fighting over birds, reptiles, horses, and even pigs. 

However, within Ontario, pets are likely considered property and are therefore subject to property division laws. This is frustrating to couples without human children who treat their pets as their children. Heck, it’s even frustrating to those who have human and animal children. 

Who Gets Custody?

So this begs the question: who gets to keep the dog or cat in a divorce? The law is slowly evolving and recognizing that while pets are considered property, they are more than just that to many people. Many Canadians have special bonds with their pets and they hope that the courts will recognize that.

Historically, pets have been treated under a strict property regime. However in some newer cases, the judge may make a decision based on each party’s investment in the animal. It does not necessarily matter who picked out the pet or who paid for it. Rather, who spends more time with the pet? Who feeds it or takes it to the vet? Has the pet bonded with anyone? Just like judges are looking out for a child’s best interests in child custody cases, a judge may likewise look out for the pet’s best interests. In some cases, the animal will be attached to the kids, so they may go wherever the kids go. So if there is shared custody, the dog or cat may go with the children. It’s a package deal. If there are multiple pets involved in a divorce, then custody may be split. One party may get the cats, while the other gets the dogs, for example.

Contact Us Today

Splitting up a pet in a divorce can be a heartbreaking ordeal. Child custody laws don’t apply and property division laws often don’t do enough.

The Ottawa, Ontario divorce lawyers at RPB Family Law can help you with custody and property division issues. We’ll help you get the best outcome possible. Contact us today by calling (613) 216-5054 or filling out the online form