21 January 2012

Provincial Court Releases Decision on Pet Custody Battles

The Family Relations Act lets the court make orders for custody and guardianship of and access to children. Although the word "children" is unambiguously defined at s. 1(1) as referring to "persons," separating couples have nevertheless, from time to time, applied to court for orders about custody, decision-making authority and access schedules in respect of their pets. Although I don't think even Mitt Romney would say that pets are persons, I've even seen applications for pet support and the sharing of a pet's expenses!

Although people often form close emotional bonds to their pets, pets are, in the eyes of the law, property with exactly the same status as a coffee cup, a car or a curio. The court can make order about who has the legal right to the ownership of property, but its jurisdiction to make orders rotating a right of possession is somewhat less certain.

This was the issue before the court in Kitchen v. MacDonald, a small claims case involving a separated couple, when the claimant applied for:
"... what amounts to a declaration of ownership in a border collie dog named Laddie currently in the possession of [the respondent], and further for an order specifying possession time for each party of the dog."
It is surely a measure of the parties' affection for the dog that the application was brought to a trial, for which each of them paid to be represented by skilled counsel. Here is the court's account of some of the evidence led:
"[6] [The respondent and various other witnesses] all testified to varying aspects of how [the respondent] acquired the dog. ... It was [the respondent] who took the dog to all of its veterinary appointments, appears on the veterinary records as owner, and paid for all of the veterinary bills as well as all of their costs associated with the dog’s needs. She licenced the dog with the City of Kamloops and paid for those licences. She admits that the dog did spend time with [the claimant]. In fact, she corrected him if he referred to the dog as his, and stopped contact when he posted a photo of 'his' dog on the internet. He worked nearby and was willing from time to time to come and take the dog, some times for a few nights at a time. She does not deny that he developed a fond attachment to her dog, but denies that she ever gifted an interest in the dog to [the claimant]. At trial, [the claimant] acknowledged that he did not play a role in the selection or purchase of the dog. He also acknowledged, although he said that he purchased dog food and other items for use at his home, he did not otherwise contribute to the upkeep of the dog. He believed the dog was his because she called him Laddie’s daddy, he took care of it often, and they treated it as theirs when they were in a relationship.

"[7] There is uncontroverted evidence that [the respondent] referred to [the claimant] as the dog’s 'daddy'. There is an undated letter on file as well reporting to be from Laddie to 'my daddy', apparently following a break-up where [the respondent] writes on behalf of the dog that she is sorry she cannot make them a family. It suggests ways that he can come and see the dog while she is out of the house at work. It concludes by saying 'I know there is no way mommy would ever keep you from seeing me – that’s just not the kind of mommy she is. She wants us to both be happy.' There were also gifts and cards over the years addressed from the dog to his 'daddy'. [The respondent] also encouraged [the claimant] continuing to look after the dog during the day. ..."
Good grief. However, as the court observed, its jurisdiction in such matters is limited:
"[2] This court does not have jurisdiction to make declarations of trust. I have jurisdiction to make a finding of ownership with respect to the dog. If I find that it is jointly owned, I have jurisdiction to order that the party who keeps the dog pay the other party half the value of the dog. I cannot find that two parties own a dog and then proceed to make orders for 'access' to the dog."
The court then quoted from an Ontario case, Warnica v. Gering, involving a dog named Tuxedo:
"Of course, any pet is somewhat different, in that it does not readily lend itself to physical division. A pet could be sold, with the proceeds to be divided in accordance with any determination as to the parties' respective interests therein; however, that is something that few would want. Certainly it is something that no one wants here. A pet could be shared ... In my view that would be akin to a custody access/order. Whether in the Family Court or otherwise, I do not believe that any court should be in the business of making custody orders for pets, disguised or otherwise. ... Obviously, I acknowledge that pets are of great importance to human beings. Strong bonds develop between them and the human beings that look after them. To some people, the relationship with their pets takes on a significance exceeding that of any other. They go to extraordinary lengths to preserve that relationship; even at a cost that some would say is disproportionate. Some may consider them to be children; however, they are not children."
This brings us back to the basic legal issue involving the pets of separated couples: determining the legal right of ownership. As the judge eloquently put it:
"[7] ... By anthropomorphizing this dog, [the respondent] led [the claimant] to, and [the claimant] allowed himself to be possessed of an expectation that, the dog was 'the child' of both of them. This, however, despite the sentimental aspects, does not create a beneficial or legal interest in a dog.

"[8] ... However, all of the factors in the mix conclusively determine that [the respondent] is the sole owner of the border collie. [The claimant's] interest is merely a sentimental one. That does not bestow any right of possession on him."
Update: 30 December 2015

This post continues to be read and commented on, as a result of which I've taken the time to write a longer, more detailed post on the subject, "Dealing with Pets After Separation." Please read that post before commenting here; my new post may answer your questions and may even be a more appropriate place to leave a comment.

49 comments:

  1. Sorry I'm just trying to understand... My ex can steal our jointly owned dog... and get away with it because she paid some bills?

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    1. Well, no, I don't think so. The issue comes down to who should own the dog, who might be you, based on the evidence presented to the court about who paid for the dog, how the dog's expenses were covered and so on. If your ex has taken your dog you can ask for an order that she return the dog to you.

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    2. What if the dog is registered at the Canadian kennel club under both names! in my case I dont want to take the dog away from my ex, but I want him to live up to his promise that he will always let me see that dog no matter what!, that was our agreement when when we separated, and during the last few month he is refusing to let me see that dog. all i want is to see him before he dies! in many occasions I offered to pay or contribute with the dog medical expenses but my ex refused to take the money, how ever when we were together we always shared his expenses as we did with all the house expenses! it was me who always took him at 5 am at minus 30 degrees for a walk in winter everyday before leaving for school!

      If somebody has any suggestion I will appreciate it a few line of advice! my name is Jacky and my email is lenita74@live.ca

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  2. What if we both signed an agreement that we would share the dog..? But he has clearly abuse his rights by constantly harassing me by telling how to spend time with my dog, texting me at odd hours, using condescending texts, sending people to spy on my personal activities, blaming me of neglect- constantly, refusing to seek "free" mediation but suggesting costly mediation to put a burden on my finances(he makes significantly higher income than me), blaming me for a raccoon attack when it was an accident, asking for nearly double the money for the release of her full custody. Not contacting me at all to see her for even 5 minutes when coming to deliver court papers, not inquiring to see her at all but putting full effort on court.. The dog was my idea, grooming, vet visits, care when sick, ability to take her to work all is me.. can the court make a decision for me to have full custody even if i have to pay him but need him to never have access to me any more.. it's been way to much of a psychological torture to see how he has put more effort to hurt me than to ever have rescued our marriage- among other things- I just want us to both move on and never knew we existed for each other and the dog will always give him access . Thank you for your highly valuable input.

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    1. It seems to me that this may not be wholly a legal issue. Some counselling might be in order. To get a referral to a counsellor, you can contact the BC College of Psychologists or the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors.

      If you think the legal system would be where you concerns are best addressed, you can get a referral to a lawyer in your neighbourhood through the Lawyer Referral Service; their number is in the column at right. You'll want to aks the lawyer about enforcing contracts and potential protection orders or conduct orders which might help regulate communications between your ex and you.

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  3. I've just gone through mediation and advised my lawyer (for the past year) that the dog is not up for negotiating. But the case went totally backwards and I was made to feel like the bad person for not agreeing to give access to the dog. I had to cave but felt pressured into agreeing to this. I can prove ownership of the dog and want to seek a second opinion on what my rights are. Do I really have to give access if I can prove ownership?

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    1. If you have an agreement, you have an agreement. You may not be able to change your mind without asking to renegotiate the deal. You should speak to a lawyer in your neighbourhood and get some proper advise about your situation.

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  4. So my scenario is my Ex purchased and gave me the dog as a gift when we were going out. I have written communication from him acknowledging the dog was indeed a gift. In our time together and the 2.5 years we have been apart, I have paid for the food, upkeep and medical expenses (he was unemployed for the majority of time we were together). After we broke up he said (only verbally) I could keep the dog and moved to a different province for 7 months.

    Now, 2.5 years later, after running into each other at the mall, he now wants to see me and is using the dog as an excuse to come over. I am living with my fiance and we both agree this is not an option. We have informed him he can not come over to see the dog and he is threatening legal action.

    It seems like a clear cut case in my favor but should I be concerned?

    Thanks in advance

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    1. The dog is property, not a child. It sounds to me that if he gave the dog to you as a gift, it's your dog. There are no access rights to property, and your ex doesn't have the right to see the dog unless you agree he can. You should get proper legal advice, but I can't see what sort of legal claim he'd have unless he was prepared to claim that the dog is his property.

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  5. My ex bought a dog for me as an xmas gift. I begged for a dog because I had just moved in with him to a new town and didn't know anyone and was lonely. Also his hours for work left me alone a lot and I would be scared at times as we used to live by a bar. So for xmas of 2011 we got a dog. I did all the research for this type of dog and contacted a bunch of breeders till I found one I liked, I still have all the emails between the breeder and I. The dog is registered to me and even the breeder contract has only my name and signature on it but he did pay for the dog. In cash...so there isn't even proof he actually paid but I'm not going to lie about it. We split up June 2014 and I took the dog as that was an agreement for me to leave and get out of his house. But three months later he decides he wants to share the dog where he gets the dog one month and me the next month or he is going to sue me for the dog. I don't agree to his terms as I don't trust him. He verbally said he would rather the dog die than be with me, so I'm scared of what he might do. I've hired a lawyer and we are now just waiting to see if he goes through with suing me. I keep reading that dogs are viewed as property, so since the dog is registered to me, doesn't that make his claim void. I don't want to lose my dog or share him, I just want my ex out of my life. But I can't get a gurantee that I won;t be forced to share the dog or even lose him as my ex did pay for the dog. Also I'm the one that paid the expenses for the dog and can prove it with all my old Visa staements and bank records. The dog is also licensed to me and only me, all vet bills paid by me, food, the dogs monthly insurance, toys etc.

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    1. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice through this blog. However, it sounds like you've done the right thing by hiring your lawyer. You will just have to wait and see if your ex sues you -- which frankly seems unlikely -- and then think about your defence.

      From what you've said it certainly seems like the dog is your dog, however the Family Law Act says that family property includes any property acquired after your relationship began and that family property is to be shared equally. If that's the case, you would have to share the dog, and the decision for the judge, assuming you can't settle things, may be to decide on the value of the dog so you can buy our your ex's one-half interest in the dog, or to decide that it's more fair for you to share the dog.

      For now, you have a lawyer; trust your lawyer's advice. If you have any reservations, get a second opinion!

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  6. Hey JP, thank you so much for your incredible page...what a wealth of information!! My question is what if the dog was originally adopted by one partner, and her child, and then she later entered into a relationship where they shared a home, access to the pre-existing child, finances and the dog. Upon break up the original owner expected to take the dog, and the other agreed with much hostility, however, when the time came, he took off with the dog and and sent an email saying that he wouldn't bring it back. As the dog was pre-existing property this doesn't seem like family court issue to me, it sounds like criminal, no? I imagine vet bills came into play, but in 3.5 years of the dogs life, less than a year would have been shared time. Thoughts? Thank you

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    1. I think you've got it basically right. Under the new Family Law Act, the property someone owns before entering the relationship remains the property of its owner. Property purchased during the relationship is family property that both spouses are presumed to own half and half.

      A dog brought into a relationship would remain the property of the owner, unless the owner gives the dog to his or her spouse during the relationship. Unless something like that happens, the dog remains its owner's property regardless of whatever the other spouse may contribute by way of paying for vet bills and food, taking it for walks and so on. If the other spouse just takes the dog from its owner, that would be likely be theft of some nature.

      You should speak to a lawyer in your neighbourhood to get some proper legal advice on this issue.

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  7. Thank you so much for the information you've shared here. My ex and I bought our dog together but since I'm the one that left her she claims I walked out on both of them and is refusing for me to see my dog. I was the primary caregiver in the form of vet visits, buying food, training, and exercising. But now she is refusing for me to ever see her again. Because I am the one that left, did I lose my right to her? I have a new place that is pet friendly with a large fenced yard and everything set up for her, but I haven't seen her in 2 months. Thank you for your help

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    1. The thing is that the court doesn't have the ability to make orders about who is a "primary caregiver" and who isn't and about who should have access. In the eyes of the law, pets are not children, they are property. As a result, it doesn't matter who left whom or what the circumstances of the separation is like. The only question is who is the dog's legal owner.

      Now, that's just what the law says. Like the couple in the case above, people really do love their pets and often have emotional attachments not too dissimilar to a parent-child relationship. This is a real issue for you and your ex. Why don't you consider going to a mediator to talk about how you can share the dog?

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  8. Hello! I am in a frenzy right now and need some help. Please!
    I am the proud father of a family of Great Danes! A mother a father and their baby. The male belonged to my ex and she raised him from a baby. I came into the relationship later, but when I did I ended up having to take the full financial responsibility for him, which I was and am happy to do. I love him. My ex and I rescued a female Great Dane who we have both agreed belongs to me as she really and truly only listens to me. However I continued full financial responsibility for both of them. The female Dane got pregnant by our male before we had a chance to have her fixed and we had 11 puppies we could not sell as that defeats the entire purpose of why we rescued the female. Again, I took full financial responsibility, though we raised them physically together for the full 8 weeks before finding homes for 10 of them charging the new parents a donation to the SPCA. We kept one and raised her together, though I continued full financial responsibility and took on the majority of the physical aspect of walking and exercising and vet trips and well everything. When we broke up we agreed to share the dogs together however she was not able to find suitable housing for them. So again I took full responsibility (happily) and am currently doing so. Now she wants to take them away! The male (which is hers though I have been financial responsible for him this entire time) and the baby who we both raised but I am and have been physically and financially responsible. Can she do this? Can she take them? Please help me.

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    1. There's nothing stopping you from refusing to give the dogs to her, and if you don't think she's entitled to them, you probably shouldn't give them to her.

      If someone knocked on your door and insisted that you give him your sofa, would you? Probably not. Even if the person knocking on your door says "I have a legal right to your sofa, give it to me now," you still wouldn't give him your sofa. If the person knocking on your door believes he has a right to your sofa, it's his job to start a legal proceeding in small claims court. The same thing does with the dogs and and your ex.

      You should talk to a lawyer who does non-real estate property law to get some proper legal advice about your options.

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  9. Hi,

    My ex and I share custody of 2 dogs that we have had for many years. It is written in our separation agreement that custody will be shared. Recently he told me that he will be keeping one of the dogs. Am I entitled to keep the other?

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    1. I think I would interpret the contract as saying that you will both continue to own the dogs despite your separation. Even though custody is a term that applies to children not animals, if I were a judge who was asked to interpret the contract, without some evidence that you and your ex meant something else, I'd probably decide that by "custody" you meant to share time with the dogs, in addition to co-owning them.

      Unless your agreement has a term that lets your ex keep the dogs, it seems to me that you have a valid contract that you can sue to enforce if he decides to break the agreement by unilaterally deciding to keep a dog. The legal issue may wind up being about that you and your ex meant by "custody" more than anything else.

      So, no, your ex probably isn't allowed to just keep one of the dogs. As a result, you can take him to court to enforce the agreement and ask for damages and costs and such. However, that's a pretty expensive option. If you decide to just keep the other that seems to make things square, doesn't it? If he has a problem with that HE can sue YOU for the dog, but then you'll just wind up arguing about the contract.

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  10. I have a possibly unique situation. The dog in question was purchased and initially raised by a friend of ours. He lived down the street and his dog and our dog became very close. If the dog got out, he showed up at our door. The friend went through a divorce and moved, selling the house. He rented a house and we occasionally took the dog for a week to play with our dog. When the friend had to move again, he couldn't take the dog. We then agreed to dog sit for up to a year.

    Five years later, we still have him and have paid for all expenses except $300 that he gave us in the first 6 months. He has always been allowed to visit or take the dog as much as he wants. In the first 3 years he only saw the dog a handful of times. He then started to take the dog for a week or two here and there, but stopped again for over a year. At that time, we had a discussion with him And he verbally agreed that our house was the best place for the dog and that it would remain the dog's primary home as long as he was still allowed to see the dog whenever he wanted.

    In the past month or so, he has started to take the dog again. So far the dog has been returned. However, he has told a mutual friend recently that he is taking the dog back permanently. He has also randomly offered to buy us a puppy as a 'thank you'. I have no interest in raising a puppy and it would be no consolation for losing the dog that we have cared for for so many years.

    I don't know if you could give us any advice. This isn't a typical custody issue. The dog was his for 4 1/2 years, but has been ours for over 5. This situation has gone way beyond dog sitting for a friend.

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    1. Well, unfortunately, it's not a custody issue at all but a property issue. And that's what makes these situations so difficult. One the one hand, the owner of the dog is the dog's owner and is entitled to possession of the dog. On the other, you've contributed time and money to the dog over many years. That's not going to change who the dog's owner is, but if you think of the dog as someone else's house that you've repaired and maintained and paid the property taxes for, in a traditional property context you could be said to have an "unjust enrichment" claim for all the value you added to the property. That's fine for a house, a car or a company, but it's not going to help with respect to the dog, is it? There's no equity in the dog against which you could be compensated for the owner's unjust enrichment.

      Now, there may be some equitable principle that could give people in circumstances like yours an actual ownership interest in the dog as a result of your contributions. Frankly, I don't know what that would be. I would encourage you to speak to a non-family, non-personal injury civil lawyer. Maybe she'll have some other options for you.

      Good luck. This is a very difficult situation.

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  11. do you have an idea who is entitled to the dog..... lived with my boyfriend for 1 year, we both brought a dog to the family. my boyfriend passed away suddenly and now his mother is trying to take the dog from me. the dogs has been with me since he passed (may 8, 2015)

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    1. Off hand, if you and your boyfriend bought the dog together, then the dog is joint property. When your boyfriend died, and I'm sorry about that, you became the sole owner of the dog. The dog is yours unless your mom contributed to its purchase in some way.

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  12. Hi, I have my dog which I got with my couple when we were together. We separated a year and a half ago. During this time who only asked me to take him 2 or 3 times for 2 or 3 days each time. He didn't give me any money since I moved out for his food or vet bills. Now that we have to solve the house situation he is threatening me that we have to arrange who will keep him..., etc. The fact is that even when we were together I was the one who used to walk him 99% of the time. He knows that my dog is everything to me because he didn't want to have kids with me (he already has 2 from a previous marriage). I would appreciate any advise, thank you.

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    1. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice through this blog. As I said in the post above, however, pets are property just like a book or a bicycle is property, and what counts is who owns the book or the bicycle.

      In the context of the Family Law Act, assuming you qualify as "spouses", the dog would be your separate property if you bought it prior to the relationship, but since you bought it during the relationship it is family property to which each of you have a presumptive one-half interest. Since you can't split a dog in half - well, you can, but neither of you would find much use in half a dog - the court would be forced to decide which of you would have the dog, and the person who kept it might have to pay some money in compensation to the other side, if, that is, the dog can be said to have any value. If I were the judge, I'd probably give the dog to the person who spent the most time caring for it.

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  13. Hi, I have a unique scenario, to cut it short I took care of a dog for my friends friend, spent a lot of money on the dog, grew a bond with the dog. The owner said she would pay for all expenses but hasn't given me a penny I have paid for everything. Bottom line she couldn't even respond to me and the arrangement was two weeks and its been three months and she is not back. I am basically wondering if I can register the dog under my name and make him legally mine. If she takes me to court and we both have the dog registered under our names what happens? And I could get documents of vet bills for the dog that I have paid with my own money.

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    1. Honestly, I'm not sure what registration would get you. What counts in these issues is who is the legal owner of the dog; that's usually the person who most recently bought the dog. I doubt that registration will give you proof of ownership if more than one person can register the same dog.

      Normally what would happen in situations like this is that you'd sue the owner for all the month you spent on the dog. It's like having a roommate who asks you to cover the full gas bill for the month. If the roommate doesn't pay you back as promised (and you can't make a deal without going to court), you'd sue your roomie for the debt owed to you. The problem, of course, is that the debt owed -- by roommates or pet owners -- is rarely worth the time and cost of the lawsuit, even in small claims court.

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  14. My husband left in 2012 and showed no interest in any of our 3 dogs. We were separated and have been legally divorced for over a year. The pets were never a part of any agreement as he wanted no part of them. Now almost 4 years later I have remarried. Now my ex is demanding to take one of the 3 dogs. Of course this is out of spite and spite alone. Since our divorce was finalized, is it safe to assume he has no rights? As a side note, the dog in question was purchased for one of my daughters

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    1. I think you are safe to make that assumption.

      If you had an order or agreement dealing with property division, which is what owning the dogs qualifies as, the order or agreement would normally say (or imply) that that was it, and that all of the important property had been dealt with. With clauses like that, any property that wasn't explicitly addressed would normally stay the property of the person who has it in his or her possession.

      However, four years on, whether you had an order or an agreement or not, the limitation period for making property claims has long passed.

      It seems to me that someone in your situation could keep the dog. It's probably a good idea to talk to a family law lawyer in your neighbourhood, to get some proper advice.

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  15. Hi, My ex boyfriend and I adopted an active and energetic dog together. We were living together at the time. I chose the dog and he purchased him, so on paper the dog belongs to him. Over the next year before we broke up, I paid my boyfriend half of most of the bills (unfortunately I don't have receipts because I paid by cash to my ex but I do have several witnesses who can testify that he is ''ours" and vets who dealt more with me than him. I became responsible for all of the dog's physical exercise and outings as my ex has always refused to do much. Even going so far as saying he'd rather give him up for adoption. I taught my ex the basic of dog care and took on the training. We lived together for eight months. I moved out and we have remained very good friends for the past year, sharing him equally back and forth and sharing expenses. I've entered into a new relationship and now my ex has declared that the dog is his and should I move, our dog will stay with him. He writes me emotional and inappropriate letters about his feelings and about our past relationship that makes it uncomfortable for me to be around him alone. But what I worry about most is that if he is able to take our dog away from me that the dog will live an unhealthy life. I have the dog most of the time but he has made me feel that I have no rights whatsoever because his name is on the ownership license even though we adopted him together and were living together.. please help shed some light on my situation because I honestly don't know where to turn. I love my dog and I want what's best for him. And I don't believe that what's best is a life with my ex.

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    1. Well, this is a problem. He is certainly the legal owner of the dog, but you've contributed a lot to the dog's expenses. The problem is that your emotional attachment to the dog, which is real and important, I understand that, doesn't take away from the fact that in the eyes of the law, the dog is property, like a car or a toaster.

      If the dog were a car, you would probably have a claim in trust against your ex, either a resulting trust or a constructive trust, and the value of your claim would relate to the amount of money you'd spent repairing and maintaining the car. The court would let him keep the car, but make him pay back what you'd spent on the car. This would reimburse your out of pocket expenses but not give you the dog.

      The only way I can see you being able to have the dog is if you can establish that you and your ex always thought of the dog as your joint dog. If that's the case, the next question is who should keep the dog, and that can depend on things like any agreements you and he had about who would care for the dog, how much time the dogs spends with each of you and so on.

      I'm afraid I can't give you any advice on the outcome here, but you should speak to a lawyer in your neighbourhood about your options.

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  16. Hi, I owned a dog prior to marriage. when I Got married, both the dog and I moved into my husband's home and we started sharing the dog.
    Upon separation, I moved out. My husband expressed desire to keep the dog for a few days as we was really attached. However, days same and went and he refused to give the dog back. I sent him a legal notice stating that the dog was mine but that until reconciliation efforts were underway, I would not push for him to return the dog. Now, I am in divorce proceedings and would like my dog back. All along, I have been the registered owner for the dog although he has paid for some vet bills along the way.

    Can i claim ownership of the dog? Do I have reasonable grounds or will this be tossed out of court? I am debating what are the plausible options?

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    1. Certainly you ask for an order that you have possession of the dog. There's nothing stopping you from doing this. You'll have to prove that you owned the dog prior to marriage, but this shouldn't be hard; I can't imagine your ex denying that you brought the dog into the marriage!

      I cannot give you legal advice. For information about your options, you must speak to a lawyer in your neighbourhood.

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  17. I'm assuming since dogs are viewed as property, there is no legal ground for my ex to be asking me to pay 'dog support'? She's had advice from a lawyer and her lawyer is pushing for monthly money for the dogs food and paying her to look after them. We bought the dogs together. Thanks for any info

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    1. I think that's right. My view is that one of you can keep the property -- and if you can't agree who, you can always sell them -- but the person having the benefit of the property has to pay to maintain the property.

      I have heard of a case where a judge required payments toward a pet's expenses that could loosely be considered "dog support", but that has to involve some really strange circumstances. From my point of view, one complete answer to your ex's position is to offer to keep the dogs yourself or simply have them sold.

      You really need to speak to a family law lawyer in your neighbourhood; the laws about property change from province to province.

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  18. My current partner is struggling with the fact that the court has ordered him to return his dog back to his ex after almost 2 yrs of separation. This dog is just a little over 2 yrs and doesn't even know the other party anymore. How is this fair? I myself have become very attached to my fur baby. Lawyers won't help,bylaw won't help. I'm so frustrated with the system. She has 3 other dogs in her care at the present time. Why on earth take this one back? Vindictive.

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    1. Well, that's a peculiar order and I have no idea why the court would make an order like that. However, dogs are treated as property, and the court likely concluded that your partner's ex was or ought to be the owner of the property. I recognize that decisions like this can be quite distressing, especially when it means losing a pet you really care about. It may be possible to appeal the judge's decision. However, before your partner takes a potentially expensive step like that, your partner really needs to get some proper legal advice about the likely success of the appeal.

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  19. hello, im going through a similar story, but in my case its an African grey parrot that my ex bought for me as a gift as he has known for quite some time i wanted to purchase one myself. he beat me to it and surprise me on Christmas with a card and that we could retrieve her in feb 2013. fast forward and went he kicked me out of our home we has an agreement that he woyld watch her until i found a place. we kept in contact and 3 weeks later i found a place and no then he didnt want to return her and proceeded to deny she was a gift. i went to court. battled a 1.5 yrs and won my case but still lost my baby as thye judge acknowledged it was a gift and awarded me costs. but i dont want the money. the judge said that because the parrot has been with him for this long that she should stay where she is. this is crazy!!!! and i cant appeal because in ontario if the claim is under $ 2500. so i cant do anything about it. im torn. i dont see how this small claims court judge established she was a gift but i still lost her. if they are considered property and i proved it. dont i have wants belongs to me back.

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    Replies
    1. First, read my post "Dealing with Pets after Separation" at http://bcfamilylawresource.blogspot.ca/2015/12/dealing-with-pets-after-separation.html. If that doesn't help, post another comment and I'll tell you what I can.

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  20. how come if someone weere to hit a polioce dog or other service animal then they get charged with hitting an officer yet when its the publics animals they are property?

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    1. I suspect it's because government wants to discourage people from hitting or killing police service dogs, and so either the definition of police officer or the definition of assault in the Criminal Code has been extended to include police animals.

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  21. My common law girlfriend and I bought a dog. we broke up and have verbally agreed to share him a week at a time for the last 1.5 years. Now she has met someone, who totally disagrees to this arrangement and has talked her into no longer sharing him. I am listed as the sole owner on all the vet documents, ie Registration form, spay/neuter consent form, insurance, and micro chip! Im thinking of going to the Police, any other suggestions?

    Sincerely,

    Mike

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    Replies
    1. Read my new post on the issue, here:

      http://bcfamilylawresource.blogspot.ca/2015/12/dealing-with-pets-after-separation.html

      If that doesn't answer your question, feel free to post another comment.

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  22. I bought my partner a dog 15 years ago, and later we got a rescue dog - we parted after 5 years leaving her and the animals in the house we both lived in. At first I helped with walkies and vets bills, but over the years become less and less. Just recently both dogs have become poorly and the vets bills have risen, I have helped a little but but very much. My partner is now threating with court again for me to pay half of all the vets costs etc. Am I liable ? Just to clarify, we have been apart for 10 years !

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    1. Although I can't give you legal advice, I honestly can't see how you'd be responsible for the bills, especially if it's his dog. Like a jointly-owned car, you can choose to make a repair or you can choose not to. If the other owner wants it to be fixed, he'd either caught it up himself or you and he would have a discussion about the necessity of the repair, and the possibility of just junking the car instead. However, there are certainly other factors that might influence the outcome if this went to court. You really must speak to a lawyer in your neighbourhood and get some proper legal advice about this.

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  23. If my ex is suing for the dog we jointly bought (my name is on all the vet records because I am the one that took care of her and licensed her), I would win if I spent the money for a lawyer and went to court, but what would happen if I "sold" the dog?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read my new post on the issue, here:

      http://bcfamilylawresource.blogspot.ca/2015/12/dealing-with-pets-after-separation.html

      If that doesn't answer your question, feel free to post another comment.

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  24. Curious about my situation:

    Ex and I bought a dog, well we picked out a dog together, but I paid cash for it (no sales record to prove it was my money and my purchase, sadly). Dog is registered under my name, insured under my name, microchipped under my name. Ex would pay half of food and medical expenses while we were together. Now we've split, and have tried sharing custody, but it's not working out. He's threatening to take me to court over it. Does he have any grip on this case? We were common law while we were together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Read my new post on the issue, here:

      http://bcfamilylawresource.blogspot.ca/2015/12/dealing-with-pets-after-separation.html

      If that doesn't answer your question, feel free to post another comment.

      Delete