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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Pet Ownership Laws in Canada 2023: Who Gets the Dog?

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

Pet Ownership Laws in Canada:- While the laws governing child custody are pretty clear and divvying up property after a divorce is fairly straightforward, there is often quite a bit of confusion when it comes to pets.

After all, they’re not exactly property, but they aren’t kids either (although, we often spoil them as much as kids, if not more).

The experts at Musson Law explain how pet ownership laws work in Canada to help couples deal with this tricky situation.

Animals Are Property (Pet Ownership Laws in Canada)

Even if we bristle at the term “property” when it comes to our pets, animals are legally considered property in Canada.

Animal ownership is not specifically addressed in provincial property laws, but because they are considered property, the general rule of ownership is that someone is considered an owner of an animal if they legally prove ownership through proof of purchase or as the recipient of the animal as a gift.

However, some provinces have animal care and protection laws that establish when an animal becomes the property of an individual.

Ownership is generally determined when a person pays for an animal or receives it as a gift. These laws are used supplementally in the provincial property laws when determining animal ownership. 

Animal care and protection laws in specific provinces include British Columbia’s “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” Alberta’s “Animal Protection Act,” Manitoba’s “The Animal Care Act,” and Newfoundland and Labrador’s “Animal Health and Protection Act.”

Additionally, Ontario’s “Dog Owners’ Liability Act” expands the definition of animal ownership to include individuals who look after or babysit a dog for an owner or the parent of a minor who looks after or babysits a dog for an owner.

Shared Ownership

In the absence of a cohabitation agreement or prenuptial agreement that specifies the custody and/or visitation arrangements for a pet, animals are considered shared property in a marriage or other relationship.

It is important to note that people don’t have to care for an animal equally to have shared ownership.

As such, even if one party was primarily responsible for feeding a pet, getting veterinary care for the pet, and paying for the pet’s expenses, the other party still has shared ownership if their name is also on the purchase receipt, adoption papers, registration documents, or veterinary records.

The terms “custody,” “visitation,” “contact,” and “having access to” are only applicable to children in the eyes of Canadian law.

Therefore, these aspects of pet ownership are not addressed during a divorce. If there are no agreements in place between the couple, pets are treated as any other property.

A judge will look at who owned the pet prior to the relationship (if applicable) and if the pet was acquired during the marriage, who has their name on the official registration, veterinary, or adoption records.

If the pet was a gift, there will need to be proof that the pet was intended as a gift, particularly if the person who gave the pet away is listed as the owner on the aforementioned documents.

Conclusion: Pet Ownership Laws in Canada

Courts do not usually consider the best interest of pets in divorce proceedings, but they may consider other factors involved before determining who the pets will stay with. It’s a nuanced situation that requires careful attention and may be best suited for a family lawyer to handle.

FAQs: Pet Ownership Laws in Canada 2023

Do pets have rights in Canada?

In Canada, pets do not have the same rights as humans. They are legally recognized as property, which means that their owners have the right to possess, use, and enjoy them. However, a number of laws exist to protect the welfare of animals, including pets.

Can you move to Canada with pets?

Yes, you can move to Canada with pets. However, there are a few requirements that you must meet in order to bring your pets into the country. These requirements include:
Your pets must be healthy and free of any diseases.
Your pets must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate.
Your pets must be microchipped or tattooed.
You must apply for a permit to import your pets into Canada.

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