A Canadian judge who found himself facing an actual custody dispute over a pair of dogs recently seems to have gotten a little annoyed by the whole thing, and he officially dismissed the case on the grounds that legally speaking, dogs are not children.
According to CBC News, a divorcing couple that owns three dogs is having a pretty nasty break-up, and part of the drama comes from them arguing about what will happen to two of the dogs. The wife wants to keep all three of the dogs. The husband wants two of them. (The third dog is very old and not in good health, and both parties say it would be best for him to live out his days with the wife.)
The wife turned to the courts to have the case heard as a child custody dispute, as though the dogs were their children. She wanted custody of the dogs, and offered to give her husband visitation rights.
Justice Richard Danyliuk thought that was ridiculous and a shameful drain on their already seriously overtaxed court system. He threw out the wife’s request, and wrote a 15-page decision explaining why dogs aren’t children. From the bits of his ruling quoted by CBC News, it sounds like Justice Danyliuk had a bit of fun writing this one.
“Dogs are wonderful creatures,” he began. “Many dogs are treated as members of the family with whom they live. But after all is said and done, a dog is a dog. At law it is property, a domesticated animal that is owned. At law it enjoys no familial rights.”
Then he went on to enumerate some of the differences between dogs and children.
- “In Canada, we tend not to purchase our children from breeders.”
- “We tend not to breed our children with other humans to ensure good bloodlines, nor do we charge for such services.”
- “When our children are seriously ill, we generally do not engage in an economic cost/benefit analysis to see whether the children are to receive medical treatment, receive nothing or even have their lives ended to prevent suffering.”
- “When our children act improperly, even seriously and violently so, we generally do not muzzle them or even put them to death for repeated transgressions.”
He also thought the prospect of visitation rights was a ridiculous thing to bring before the court.
“Am I to make an order that one party have interim possession of the family butter knives but, due to a deep attachment to both butter and those knives, order that the other party have limited access to those knives for 1.5 hours per week to butter his or her toast?” he wrote.
While animals are not the same as butter knives, and people do form extremely strong attachments and familial-esque bonds with them, this does sound like an extremely annoying case to bring before the judge. He had to read piles of testimony from the husband and wife, including detailed accounts of how they purchased their other animals, and deal with insistence from the wife that the husband was, in fact, “a cat person.”
Finally sick of all that, the judge ruled that dogs should not legally be treated as children, and that it was a property issue the couple should take care of themselves. Because the dog issue is a property issue, the judge made a pretty pointed note about the potential consequences of continuing to tie up court time with their dog custody issue, should they continue to try to make the court decide where the dogs should live.
“Both parties should bear in mind that if the court cannot reach a decision on where the dogs go, it is open to the court under the legislation to order them sold and the proceeds split — something I’m sure neither party wants.”
That’s like dog-court version of King Solomon’s “If two women want the baby, just cut the baby in half!” ruling.
Hopefully the couple will be able to figure out what to do with the dogs on their own.