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So You Are Separating or Divorcing. What About Your Beloved Pet?


The end of a cohabiting relationship is always challenging. By its nature, it means that the people going through it will have to figure out how to divide their bank accounts, debt, homes, furniture, and the many other things they acquired concurrently, including any children they share. But many Canadians will also have to figure out how to divide another shared source of value to both parties – their pet.

According to one survey undertaken by the Business of Urban Animals, 56 percent of Canadian households have at least one pet consisting of a dog or cat. And especially for couples who not have children, ownership of domestic pets can represent a strong emotional connection for both parties. For this reason, it is important that you make plans in advance for your pet in light of your impending separation so that you can continue to maintain this bond.

I View My Pet as My Child. Does the Law View My Pet the Same Way?

Unfortunately, no. Under Ontario’s Family Law Act, pets are considered a form of personal property that is legally equivalent to a lamp or article of clothing. This can lead to special challenges post-divorce as a pet, unlike furniture or clothing, cannot be divided in shares.

Do Ontario Courts Award Shared Pet Custody?

Traditionally, no. In one of the leading cases regarding the disposition of pets, Warnica v. Gering, the Court clarified that custody agreements are not intended for pets.

What is the Best Solution For Retaining Ownership of My Pet?

A separation agreement. Just as parents of a child can stipulate shared terms in an agreement, you can do the same. And if you are separating or divorcing from a partner, you are much better off if you can agree on common ground. A separation agreement avoids the bulk of the time-consuming, expensive, and uncertain aspects of having a court decide the fate of your pet.

Why Don’t I Want a Court Determining the Fate of My Pet?

Keep in mind that your pet is considered to be personal property under Ontario law, not the object of your affection. If you and your ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement, then as the Warnica decision addressed, a court can technically order the sale of the pet and division of the profits between the separating parties. As you most likely value keeping your pet over any monetary value your pet may carry, this is probably a very unfavorable prospect.

Are You Separating From a Partner and Trying to Figure Out How To Plan For Your Pet?

In this challenging circumstance, you need an experienced family law lawyer who is compassionate and understanding of your situation but can also fight for you and your beloved pet. The Mississauga divorce lawyers at Zagazeta Garcia LLP have significant experience helping people like you figure out how to successfully transition pet ownership after a divorce. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to confidentially begin to figure out your next steps.



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