A pet is often viewed as an integral and irreplaceable member of the family. Pet parents become emotionally attached to their pets. Even though these pets receive the same unconditional love and affection as any other family member, are pets treated in law like a child?
The reality is that our legislation classifies pets as property as it falls under the book of property in the Civil Code of Quebec. Despite the bond between a pet owner and their furry loved one, the Courts will treat the pet the same as property (Droit de la famille – 21257 , 2021 QCCS 711). In other words, the Courts will most likely dismiss any form of “custody” request with respect to a pet.
Decisions pertaining to who gets to the keep the family pet following a divorce or separation is best treated outside our judicial system and dealt with by the parties directly. Although this matter can be a source of contention, the parties must find an arrangement that works best for them. Emotions will run high, but you have to consider certain factors. For example, moving forward, who will have more availability to tend to your pet’s needs? Who has the closer bond to your pet? Who initially bought your pet? Who paid for the majority of the pet’s expenses to date and who spent the most time caring for the pet before the breakdown of the relationship?
Most important factor to consider is your children’s relationship with your family pet. Often times, children grow up with their pet and form a very special bond with them from a young age. During a divorce or separation when the child faces a lot of change, having their family pet around for extra support is a sense of security and a constant for them. If ever they have to hop from house to house, at least they get to take their pet with them. Parents should make every effort to keep the family pet in your children’s presence when possible.
For couples without children, decisions with respect to who should keep your pet may be even more sensitive and difficult to make. It is important to note that you can be as creative as you wish with respect to your schedule with your pet. For example, one pet owner can decide to keep the pet full-time while still providing access rights to the other owner upon request. Another scenario could be a 50-50 split. The possibilities are endless!
As pet owners, you must find a way to come to an amicable arrangement together, with no help of our Courts. Be honest and transparent with your time and financial responsibilities in order to ensure that the pet and family benefit from the best quality of life and care as possible.