Deciding on the dog

Pets remain property despite Judge’s sadness that at law they do not have a more temporal existence with consequent rights.

Last year we posted an article about pet custody in divorce proceedings. In February 2017 a matter relating to property settlement was decided in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. The only issue which remained in dispute between the parties was the ownership of the family dog.

Hon. Justice Harman noted in his decision that sadly animals, including companion animals, remain classified as property of their owners rather than having some more temporal existence with consequent rights.

The parties did not dispute the value of their dog and his Honour noted that the dog is a sentient creature whose worth is the love and affection the parties hold for the creature.

In deciding who would retain the dog, his Honour considered:

  • who purchased the dog;
  •  the circumstances relating to the purchase of the dog (including who conducted research and met with the dog’s breeder);
  • whether the dog was in fact purchased prior to the parties living together;
  • whether the dog was in fact a gift purchased by the husband for the wife;
  • who paid for the dog’s expenses including veterinary bills, food and other expenses;
  • section 7 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW) which provided a definition of “owner” as being the person by whom an animal is ordinarily kept or the registered owner; and
  • whether the husband’s registration of the dog in his sole name 8 months after separation was self-serving and not a true representation of the true owner of the dog.

Ultimately after quoting Roger Caras – “dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” – His Honour decided that the wife was the true owner of the dog.

Categories: News & Alerts and Perth Family Lawyers Information.