Who gets the Dog? Pets and Family Law

To some people pets are an extension of their family, so in the event of a separation issues may rise as to who gets the much loved pet.

In the recent case of Downey & Beale [2017] FCCA 316 the parties had agreed on their property settlement, but could not decide who would keep the family dog.

Dogs are considered property in accordance with the Family Law Act 1975 and in deciding where the dog should live the court is required to ascertain what a just and equitable outcome is in the circumstances.

The husband argued that he purchased the dog and the wife argued that the dog was given to her as a gift. Since separation, the dog had remained living with the wife and was therefore in her possession. The wife also asserted that she had financially supported the dog by paying for vaccinations, operations, food, vet bills and accessories for the dog.

The Judge referred to the Companion Animals Act 1998 to seek guidance as to who was the owner of the dog.  The Act stated that the owner of the dog is the person who the dog is kept with, or the person whose name the dog is registered in.  In this case the dog was registered in the name of the husband but ordinarily lived with the wife.  Ultimately the Court decided that the dog live with the wife.

Issues revolving around property settlement after a divorce are often complicated and antagonistic in nature. Koffels Solicitors & Barristers can assist you to know your rights, and seek optimum division of assets in the event of a disputed property settlement.