When parties separate, we deal with high conflict parenting and custody issues regarding children. However, as fewer younger couples are choosing to have children, there are more fights over the family pet.

Although people love their pets like children, under the law, pets are treated as property.  Shared custody arrangements for dogs and cats do not exist. In the case of dispute, a party must apply to the Court to determine ownership of the animal.

In Schindle v. Schindle, 2021 ABQB 99, following a divorce, the Husband brought an application for access to the parties’ dog. The parties had purchased the dog jointly during the marriage, and disagreed on who would get the dog after they had separated. The Husband wanted to have a custody arrangement with the dog, which would allow a weekly visit at a specified location. The Court stated that while these cases are difficult “the law is very clear that family pets are and must be treated as property on dissolution of a marriage.”  Therefore, the Court declined to grant the Husband joint custody of the dog.