Who Gets to Keep the Dog in a Divorce?


Divorce is a challenging time for couples, and it becomes even more complex when beloved pets are involved. In recent years, the issue of pet custody has gained attention and sparked debates. Ontario, Canada, like many other jurisdictions, has its own set of laws and considerations when it comes to determining who gets to keep the dog in a divorce. In this blog post, we will explore the factors that influence pet custody decisions in Ontario and provide some insights to help you navigate this emotional aspect of divorce.

Understanding Pets as Property:

In the eyes of the law, pets are considered property, which means they are subject to division in the same way as other assets. Unlike children, who are considered dependents and have custody arrangements based on their best interests, pets are treated differently. The court does not consider the well-being or preferences of the pet when determining custody but focuses on ownership rights instead.

The Importance of Proof of Ownership:

In Ontario, it is crucial to establish clear proof of ownership to increase your chances of retaining custody of your beloved dog. Documents such as purchase receipts, adoption papers, registration papers, and veterinary records can serve as evidence of ownership. If possible, it is advisable to have the pet registered under your name before the divorce process begins. This will strengthen your claim to the dog in case of disputes.

Considering Pre-Nuptial or Co-Ownership Agreements:

To avoid potential conflicts and uncertainties surrounding pet custody in the event of a divorce, couples can consider drafting pre-nuptial or co-ownership agreements specifically addressing pet ownership and custody. These agreements can outline the responsibilities, care arrangements, and custody rights of each party in the event of a separation or divorce. Consulting with a family lawyer who specializes in pet custody matters can provide valuable guidance in creating these agreements.

Negotiating a Pet Custody Arrangement:

In cases where both parties share a strong bond with the dog, it may be beneficial to consider negotiation and mediation to reach a mutually acceptable pet custody arrangement. This approach allows for flexibility and can prioritize the best interests of the pet. Factors that could influence the decision may include who primarily takes care of the dog, who has the financial means to provide for the dog’s needs, and the living arrangements of each party post-divorce.

The Role of the Court:

If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, and the dispute over pet custody proceeds to court, the judge will typically apply property division principles to decide the outcome. The court may consider factors such as the history of pet care, who has the closest emotional bond with the dog, and the ability to provide a suitable living environment. However, it’s important to note that court proceedings can be lengthy, expensive, and unpredictable.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods:

To avoid the uncertainties and potential emotional toll of a court battle, couples can explore alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation or collaborative law. These approaches prioritize open communication and allow both parties to work together to find a solution that considers the well-being of the pet and the interests of each individual.


While Ontario’s legal system treats pets as property, determining pet custody in a divorce can be a complex and emotional process. It is essential to gather evidence of ownership, consider negotiation and mediation, and consult with a knowledgeable family lawyer to understand your rights and options. Ultimately, the goal should be to find a resolution that promotes the best interests and welfare of your beloved dog, ensuring a smoother transition for everyone involved.

Mikhailitchenko Law can provide insights on property dispursements and agreements in a family law matter, such as divorce. If you find yourself needing guidance on this matter, reach out to the family law experts at Mikhailitchenko Law at (416) 307-2070.