Jodi Lazare, ‘“Who Gets the Dog?” A Family Law Approach’

… This article makes a case for change. It argues that the law should catch up with social attitudes and behaviour toward companion animals. On the heels of the first reported Canadian appellate court decision to weigh in on companion animal ownership following a break-up, it sets out and argues in favour of an alternative model – one that looks beyond who purchased an animal and considers the relationship between dog and human, and the way that that relationship may give rise to unforeseen obligations. This is not a radical proposition. In setting out its approach to determining ownership, this article endorses the reasoning of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, some of which relied on an earlier decision of the Small Claims Court of Nova Scotia. Part 1 reviews some of the relevant case law, as it has developed in recent years. It sets out a spectrum of approaches courts have adopted in adjudicating disputes over companion animal ownership (the ‘ownership spectrum’). At one end lies the traditional property analysis, which equates ownership with the purchase of an animal, and has little regard for the nuances of animal ownership or the relational aspect of animal companionship. This is the more frequent approach. At the other end lies what this article calls the ‘relational approach’, which looks at factors other than who bought the animal and reflects the idea that ownership of a companion animal involves an ongoing and reciprocal relationship …

Jodi Lazare, “Who Gets the Dog?” A Family Law Approach, Queen’s Law Journal (Spring 2020).

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