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Pets are now considered family under BC law

BC family law now considers pets as family members rather than an assets.

The province announced the first-of-its-kind legislation takes effect today, Jan. 15, and includes new guidelines on how to make decisions about who gets to keep pets after a divorce. 

Courts will now take in account each person’s ability and willingness to care for the animal, the relationship a child has with the animal and if there are any risks of family violence or threats of cruelty to an animal, according to a Ministry of Attorney General media release.

“The initial changes also recognize that pets are an important part of the family and allow a child’s relationship with a pet to be considered and respected. By making these reforms with input from people in B.C., we hope to make an already difficult time a bit less stressful for everyone involved,” Premier David Eby said in the release.

The courts encourage families to decide who keeps pets themselves, but it's prepared to decide if soon to be ex-spouses disagree. These changes apply to companion animals, not service animals or livestock.

“Pets are unique members of our families, not inanimate property like furniture, and our family laws now reflect this,” UBC animal law professor V. Victoria Shroff said in the release. “This first-of-its-kind legislation considers the interests of the whole family, including relational aspects of the bond between companion animals and their family."

READ MORE: BC developer's 'hopelessly complex' finances bewilder divorce court judge

The provincial government is looking for the public’s feedback to inform more changes to family law in BC.

There are three surveys available online for the public to share their experiences with family law, and a fourth survey which considers the same questions but from an Indigenous perspective.

Click here to participate in the surveys.


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