Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (November 24, 2023, 2:31 PM EST) --
Marcel Strigberger
Marcel Strigberger
In case you’re wondering about the law on pet pigs, more about Petunia the Peruvian pet pig shortly.

Meanwhile, a Colombian court has recently ruled such in a divorce proceeding that a dog named Simona should be legally considered a Bogotá man's “daughter.”

Jader Alexis Castaño, a Colombian university rector, was left depressed after he lost his dog Simona in a divorce. He referred to the fine canine as his “dog child.”

He and his wife split in 2021 and the wife allegedly denied Jader reasonable visits to Simona. He argued before the court that both he and Simona were emotionally affected big time as a result of the unsatisfactory sporadic access visits. The Bogotá Superior Court judges agreed with him, ruling that Simona the pooch had indeed been an official member of the “multispecies” family before the divorce tore it asunder and that the dog should be legally considered “his daughter” and treated as such in divorce proceedings. This means Jader should have regular access to Simona, or rather, I suppose, given that it is in the dog’s best interest, Simona should have regular scheduled visits with Jader.

Actually, the ice on the status of pets was broken in a 2016 Colombian decision where the court ruled that animals are not objects. They’re living beings with feelings, and humans must protect animals from pain and be responsible for their well-being by treating them when sick and avoiding putting them in circumstances that could cause them fear or stress.

This type of sentiment is unknown in Canadian courts, where pets are considered property. But what if our courts were to adopt the Colombian stance and elevate dogs to childlike status in family law proceedings?

I imagine using our present framework where children are involved in matrimonial actions, we would probably have an Office of the Animals’ Lawyer.  To avoid any hassles, dogs and cats, say, would be entitled to be represented by a lawyer. It might stretch the Legal Aid budget a bit but isn’t Felix worth it? Meow meow!

The Animals’ Lawyer would have the right to carry out an investigation and report. Said lawyer would be on the lookout for any abusive behavior of the parties. I recall in my practice my client’s wife alleged child abuse after my client, the dad, during a visit with his son, took him for a haircut. The wife was livid as the barber generously and zealously clipped the kid’s hair, turning his head into a close resemblance of a cue ball,

I can see a parallel problem with dogs, especially poodles. I, for one, consider those poodle trims abusive.  I can easily imagine if dogs were to take over the world one day, the poodles would call out their owners shouting, “Hey grab that guy; put a pom pom on his ass.”

And elevating the pet to child status would no doubt mean that if the owner would venture out for the evening, they would be required to call in a babysitter. We would probably see the establishment of an Animal Aid Society, which would get involved to monitor and deal with pet neglect.  They would be able to move to snatch Rover away if they thought he was a dog in need of protection. Any owners thus dropping the ball would find themselves in the doghouse.

And if animals are considered children entitled to access visits after owners’ separation, how farfetched would it be to see the “parents” eligible to sue for animal support? The Divorce Act would be amended to contain Animal Support Guidelines. I see potential problems here as  conceivably the quantum the non-custodial parent would have to pay monthly would not be based on his or her income. Rather it would likely be determined by the size of the animal. If a party for example has an inkling that the marriage is getting shaky and he or she considers getting a dog, he or she might think twice before adopting a St. Bernard.

It seems that South America is at the forefront of considering animals as family members.

Which gets me to Petunia, the Peruvian pet pig.

In 2018, a Peruvian court ruled that Petunia, a 3-year-old pig, was a member of a family in the country’s central highlands region of Junín after the municipal government said the pig was a public health risk and ordered her owners to transfer her to a farm. The court held that Petunia  does not have to move to Old MacDonald. How’s that for justice! Oink oink.

I do have one more thought though. If dogs say are ever considered children, would my son’s beagle Columbo make me a grandfather? Woof woof.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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