Family pets often become the most contentious issue in family law matters. In fact, recently I attended court on a Replevin application related to a family dog and just a few weeks ago during a mediation the issue of custody of the family dog took more time than dividing bank accounts and RRSP’s combined. This peaked my interest as to how courts have dealt with family pets in the course of family law litigation, I was able to locate a recent paper by Marie Gordon, QC, which was presented at a recent Legal Education Society of Alberta seminar in Calgary that summarized some property issues, including how the issue of family pets has been adjudicated by the courts in Canada:
1. CEC v. SWC 2013 BCSC 1879 – in this case the wife kept two family dogs and in exchange the husband retained the wife’s interest in her RRSP’s.
2. NAG v. JMG 2013 SKQB 304 – the value of the dogs was not included in the distribution of the family property because neither party produced evidence as to the value of the dogs.
3. Telep v. Telep 2012 BCSC 2092 – the parties in this case had two dogs. One of the dogs was a gift from the wife to the husband for his birthday and the other was purchased by the husband during the marriage. Both parties helped in the care of the dogs during the marriage and after the breakdown of the marriage both parties wanted the dogs because of their emotional attachment to them. The judge ordered that the two dogs be given to the husband who the judge found to have a sincere emotional attachment to the dogs, while the wife, according to the judge, seemed more motivated to keep the dogs so that the husband could not have them.
4. LeClerc v. LeClerc 2012 NSSC 321 – the parties in this case agreed that the dog would remain with the husband’s brother and that the wife could have access to the dog and could take the dog to the park when she was visiting. This reminded me of a chambers application a few years ago where I watched two lawyers argue for access to the family dog over the Christmas holidays.
5. Boulet v. Rushton 2014 NSSC 75 – in this case the court dealt with the dogs by creating an access schedule. The court held that Boulet would have primary care of the dogs and Rushton would have care of the dogs two days a week.
6. Boyda v. Shaw 2014 ABCA 1 – in this case the trial judge found that the two dogs were in fact matrimonial property. The trial judge valued the dogs at $2,000.00 for the purposes of a division under the Matrimonial Property Act.