A judge in Canada has refused to treat dogs as members of the family during a divorce case.
Justice Richard Danyliuk sits on the Court of Queen’s Bench for the western province Saskatchewan. The court deals with family law issues such as divorce and wills. In this case, the judge dealt with a couple who married in 2000 but had no children before their relationship eventually broke down.
In lieu of children, the couple acquired pets, including three dogs. The pair “lavished their natural love and affection on these pets, which is not at all unusual in such a situation” Justice Danyliuk wrote in his judgment.
However, once their relationship had come to an end, the couple could not decide what should be done about the dogs. While the husband believed the court should make that decision as though they were property, the wife took a different approach. Her application to the court was “more akin to an interim custody disposition than it is to a property order”, with allowances for her former partner to have “reasonable access” to the dogs on occasion.
Justice Danuliuk wrote that while dogs were “wonderful creatures … [which are] treated as members of the family with whom they live” this had no effect on the law. “[T]he prospect of treating pets as children would be treated holds absolutely no attraction for me” he declared. He wrote that people “tend not to purchase our children from breeders”, nor do they “breed … children with other humans to ensure good bloodlines”.
It was not the judge’s job to “validate the personal perspective of pet owners within the legal context” but to apply the law as it currently stands. He ruled that “for legal purposes, there can be no doubt: Dogs are property”.
The judge therefore dismissed the wife’s “ridiculous application”, writing that it “should not even be put before the court”. He urged the couple to come to an agreement on the dogs out of court.
Read the full judgment here.