What happens to pets after divorce?
In a recent case in Canada, the Court ruled that dogs (and other pets) are properties which cannot be considered as children.
The couple were married for 16 years and decided to go to the Court to resolve an issue on who 2 of their 3 dogs will live with. They did not have children. The couple are separated. Since their separation, the dogs have been living with the wife’s parents.
The wife’s lawyers urged the Court to consider the dispute as they would in any other custody issues. They wanted the 2 dogs to live with the wife while the husband would have visitation rights.
Why dogs and pets should not be treated like children?
However, the Court rejected any similarity between children and pets. According to Justice Richard Danyliuk, a dog is a dog and even if they are treated like family members, a dog is still a property and it enjoys no familial rights. The Judge elaborated that people do not purchase children from breeders like how they purchase dogs. Unlike dogs, children are not bred with other children to ensure good bloodlines. Children are not muzzled or put to death for repeated improper behaviours.
Decision of the Canadian Court
In the meantime, the Court ruled that the dogs should remain where they are. The Court dismissed the application and asked the separated couple to sort out the dispute themselves.
See: Ashifa Kassam, “Judge rules pet dogs cannot be treated as children in Canada custody dispute”, The Guardian, 19 December 2016
As a divorce lawyer in Singapore, I have seen about 2 to 3 cases in the past 3 years concerning disputes on pets. Couples in such cases normally do not have children and see the pets as their “children”. The big question is what happens to pets after divorce, particularly if both spouses are equally attached to the pets?
In the cases I have handled, the couple eventually managed to work out arrangements between themselves.
While pets are not children, we should not underestimate the emotions that divorced and separated couples feel towards them. As far as possible, the welfare of pets should be taken into account and both parties should work towards an arrangement whereby both parties are able to maintain their relationships with the pets after divorce.
Please contact us if you have issues concerning pets after divorce in Singapore.
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