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Is your Pooch considered property?



Is your Pooch considered property?

In a BC family separation, a pet was considered property which meant that the Court had to apply the law dividing assets. For example, if a pet was owned by one of the spouses before the marriage started then the pet could be considered excluded property and ordered to be returned to its owner regardless of other factors such as the feelings of a child or proper care of the pet, etc: see the decision of F.K.L. v D.M.A.T, 2020 BCSC 1296. And with property law involved, only the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to deal with the pet, which can be a paper-intensive and expensive court process.


First in Canada, a January 2024 amendment to the BC Family Law Act created a new law providing for "companion" animals so the Court can decide the ownership and possession of the family pet instead of applying asset law. In addition, this new law gives both the Provincial and the Supreme Court jurisdiction to decide about companion animals so separating families now have the choice of which court works best for them, if the parents cannot otherwise agree.


For example, a family without significant assets or common law spouses who do not need a divorce could use the Provincial Court for most family law issues. And the free mediators called Justice Counselors can easily draft agreements for spouses and parents in Provincial Court. HOWEVER, who owns who is not in dispute from the cat's point of view = See the excellent cartoon by I.Rice

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