B.C. judge grants shared custody of family dog in landmark ruling

Click to play video: 'Pets are no longer ‘property’ under B.C. family law'
Pets are no longer ‘property’ under B.C. family law
WATCH: Changes to B.C. family law mean pets will no longer be considered "property" in cases of separation or divorce. Richard Zussman reports – Jan 15, 2024

In a landmark ruling under B.C.’s new pet law, a judge granted shared custody of a Golden Retriever.

The case of Stella was the first to be heard in B.C.’s Supreme Court following changes to the Family Law Act in January.

Animals are now deemed companions instead of property and in this case, since the ex-partners shared payment for Stella and lived together, the judge ruled for joint custody.

Animal lawyer Victoria Shroff says the decision is groundbreaking.

“There’s no question that most people in Canada — I’ve seen the stats — most people say they believe their cat or dog or horse or hamster is a family member,” she said.

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“The court has new tools through this legislation to interpret an animal and to see them as an animated, sentient being.

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“And that is huge. That is absolutely huge because the law does usually talk about animals as property, straight-up property, like a toaster.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. has set up a family model for other jurisdictions across Canada: lawyer'
B.C. has set up a family model for other jurisdictions across Canada: lawyer

The new law pertains to claims filed under the Family Law Act in B.C.’s Supreme Court for $35,000 or more, or in provincial court for disputes over $5,000.

“What I loved about this is that the court is really looking at the dog in the context of the family and treating the dog like a valued family member,” Shroff said.

Companion animals do not refer to service or guide dogs or agricultural livestock.

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