Pet custody continues to be a growing area of Canadian law

When fighting over furry friends, consider what it’s (really) worth

Ottawa lawyer Timothy Sullivan on pet custody

by Timothy Sullivan, Lawyer

We’re talking about pets more than usual this month because of our support for SafePet Ottawa and their gala event at the beginning of November, but the issue of ‘pet custody’ as it relates to separation and divorce has been increasingly important in Canadian law for the past several years.

A couple of years ago, we spoke to AdvocateDaily about how, with couples often investing significant time and money into a beloved pet, that pet becomes a contentious issue in the event of a split. Here’s part of that article.

Four-legged family members are often the subject of debate during separation proceedings, but — despite how much it may feel like it — pets are not considered children under Ontario law, says Ottawa family lawyer Timothy N. Sullivan.

“Pets are certainly a hot topic in separations, but they are really an issue of property and not one of custody,” he tells

Sullivan points to a recent headline-making case that dealt with how to split the time of a couple’s beagle mixed breed dog which they adopted together when it was three months old.

The separating couple did not have children but spent years in mediation trying to strike a time-sharing agreement for the dog, named Pupineya, reports the Globe and Mail.

In the end, they decided Pupineya would split time between the two, even though they now live on opposite coasts — one in Virginia, the other in British Columbia.

The article cites an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers’ survey that found 27 per cent of lawyers have seen an increase in pet-custody cases over the past five years with the most sought-after animal being dogs.

In Ontario, Sullivan, principal at SullivanLaw, says the issue of pet ownership certainly arises in separation cases and is often a source of tension.

“In law, a dog is no different than a table. It’s property. People often have trouble with that, and rightly so,” says Sullivan. “Dogs require feeding, caring, walking and grooming — a table doesn’t.”

Visit Advocate Daily to read the whole article.