Because currently, the law treats our precious fur babies like mere fur possessions.
Divorce can be ruff.
He got the Poäng armchair from Ikea; she got the Keurig K-Cup coffee maker, boxes of assorted coffee pods included. He took the car; she got the boat. He got the crystal decanter glass set (a gift from her sister), though it was mostly for show as he liked drinking straight from the bottle (an early red flag she ignored).
She got the rest of the kitchenware, as well as his entire baseball card collection, including a 1995 Vladimir Guerrero rookie card in mint condition. He made a fuss before relenting, but would not, under any circumstances, part with the dog.
As COVID-19 has strained many Quebec marriages, producing a windfall of broken relationships, the Montreal SPCA is trying to avoid these kinds of high conflict scenarios by making divorce easier on both four-legged and two-legged creatures with its Lasting Relationship campaign.
"Acquiring an animal is a long-term commitment," stated Sophie Gaillard, director of animal advocacy and legal affairs at the Montreal SPCA in an email interview. "Statistically speaking, a relationship with a cat or dog has the potential to last considerably longer than a romantic relationship. It is therefore part of responsible animal ownership to consider what will happen in the event of a breakup."
Montreal SPCA is encouraging couples to sign a custody agreement for their pet
As part of the campaign, the Montreal SPCA has drawn up an agreement to help couples decide who gets the dog (or cat I suppose) when a relationship falls apart.
The first document of its kind to be publicly available in Quebec, the standard animal custody agreement can be obtained pro-bone-o on the Montreal SPCA website.
"Signing the animal custody agreement we're making available today is at animal owners' discretion,” said Gaillard. “However, we hope such agreements will become standard practice during the adoption process, not only at the Montreal SPCA, but throughout Quebec."
Divorces have increased during the pandemic
Quebecers are apparently very flighty when it comes to nuptials, with about half of all unions ending in divorce. That's according to the Institut de la Statistique du Québec (ISQ), which found the highest risk of breakup was around the fourth year of the relationship.
Conversely, dogs (11 years) and cats (15 years) can live much longer than that on average, according to the SPCA, and their relationship commitment skills are rock-solid.
In addition, COVID-19 has strained many marriages, producing a boom time for divorce lawyers who are reporting "a surge in the number of consultations for separation since the beginning of the pandemic," according to a news release.
In addition, common-law unions, which make up 38% of couples in Quebec, "tend to be more unstable than marriage, according to demographers at the Université de Montréal and the ISQ," it continues.
SPCA urges animal lovers to sign their petition
Currently, the law treats our precious fur babies like mere fur possessions.
In the event of divorce, the courts decide who keeps the animal based on who bought or adopted it "without taking into consideration what is in the animal's best interest," said Gaillard.
With the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Quebec, Simon Jolin-Barrette, undertaking a reform of Quebec’s family law, the Montreal SPCA has also launched a petition calling for the Civil Code of Quebec to be updated to make sure animal welfare is considered in matters of separation or divorce.
"Such a provision would not only promote animal welfare, but it would also save a great deal of grief for spouses experiencing a breakup who, overnight, may find themselves completely deprived of contact with an animal whom they considered a true member of the family," said Gaillard.
"It would also make Quebec law much more coherent when it comes to animals," she continued. "The Civil Code of Quebec was updated in 2015 to recognize that animals are not things but rather sentient beings. Yet family law continues to treat them like things, instead of as members of the family."
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