British Columbia Government Proposes Changes to Simplify Pet Custody Disputes

The government of British Columbia has introduced Bill 17, the Family Law Amendment Act, 2023, which proposes amendments to the Family Law Act that are intended to provide guidance for people and judges involved in animal custody disputes. If passed, the amendments would require the consideration of factors such as each person's ability and willingness to care for the pet, the relationship between the child and the animal, and the risk of family violence or threat of cruelty. V. Victoria Shroff, animal law specialist at Shroff and Associates, said: “These amendments reflect how pets are valued as unique family members by society rather than as inanimate property like furniture […] Having relevant factors to consider for these difficult decisions will bring more clarity and is a welcome change.” These amendments are the first of their kind in Canada.