"Your dogs are not your children," rules judge in divorce case custody battle

The Canadian judge strongly criticised the separating couple for wasting the court's time over where their three dogs should live

"Your dogs are not your children," rules judge in divorce case custody battle


Although many people may well treat them like children, dogs are property and cannot be considered in the same way that offspring should be, according to a Canadian judge ruling on a divorce case and subsequent ‘custody dispute’ over a separating couple’s three pets.

The couple, whose childless marriage was dissolved after 16 years together, put their faith in the Canadian courts earlier this year after the husband and wife could not settle on where their three dogs would reside. The man launched a case to keep one of the dogs when his estranged wife demanded she keeps all three, guaranteeing him 90-minute scheduled visitations.

Responding to the case, the woman’s legal team, describing her former husband as “a cat person” in the filed papers, urged Justice Richard Danyliuk to approach the case as he would any other custody dispute, which provoked the Saskatchewan judge to pen a scathing response.

“Many dogs are treated as members of the family with whom they live,” he wrote in his judgment last August, but which achieved international attention when broadcast on Canadian TV this week. “But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law, it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law, it enjoys no familial rights.”

Acknowledging that pets and animals do exist with legal protections as to cruelty and neglect, Justice Danyliuk drew the line at applying the same laws legislating how children should be cared for after the dissolution of a marriage.

“In Canada, we tend not to purchase out children from breeders,” he wrote. “In turn, we tend not to breed out children with other humans to ensure good bloodlines, nor do we charge for such services ... When our children act improperly, even seriously and violently so, we generally do not muzzle them or put them to death for repeated transgressions.”

The judge has since ruled that the three dogs, Quill (12), Kenya (9) and Willow (2), will remain with the woman. He compared making his ruling to being asked to decide how the rest of their shared property should be divided. “Am I to make an order that one party have interim passion of (for example) the family butter knives, but due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?”

The judge also blasted the couple for bringing the case to the family courts system, one plagued by long delays when it comes to hearing applications pertaining to child welfare. He also warned them that their decision to come to court could have left them open to legislation ordering their dogs “sold and the proceeds split – something I am sure neither party wants.”

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