Few of us can dispute the fact that in many families, our pets are elevated beyond the status of simple property to that of family members. Many of us receive Christmas cards allegedly signed by the family dog. However, when marriages fall apart, the courts are the very last place to look to for any assistance resolving disputes over pets. Whom will the pets live with and any other questions such as veterinarian bills can be problematic and the courts are of little practical help.
The courts in many jurisdictions, including Ontario, have clearly held that pets are property, not children and are to be dealt with only from that perspective. A separated spouse who seeks help from the court in dealing with a pet is more likely than not to find themselves at the end of a sharply worded rebuke by the courts.
If pets are property then all the other normal rules of determining ownership come into play such as receipts, care, who paid for the pet, possession and the like. In other words, the courts are your very last and most reluctant resource if you and your former spouse cannot work out your differences on the point of what is to happen to the family pet once a marriage falls apart.