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Husband applies for shared custody of a dog!

In Davenport & Davenport (Davenport & Davenport (No 2) [2020] FCCA 2766) , following the breakdown of a 2 year marriage, Mrs Davenport had requested that Mr Davenport no longer attend their former matrimonial property, however Mr Davenport continued to ignore this request in order to spend time with their dog.

In the matter heard before the Family Court, the wife deposed she was the sole registered owner of the dog which she purchased prior to the marriage. Mr Davenport applied to the court for interim orders for “shared custody” of the dog. His arguments were that although Mrs Davenport was the registered owner, he made financial contributions towards the dog providing food, toys and visits to the vet. Mr Davenport also asserted in his response that the dog was kidnapped by the applicant for the purposes of stress and anxiety to him.

The application for shared custody of the dog raised a jurisdictional issue. To date, Courts have dealt with pets and other animals as personal property and therefore the Court has jurisdiction to determine the wife’s application that she retain the dog as part of the property dispute. The husband’s application, however, is not an interlocutory application for the adjustment of property interests and does not fall within Part VIII of the FLA, and the court therefore has no jurisdiction to make an order for “shared custody” of a dog.

The judge relevantly stated: “The Court is aware that for many people pets are regarded as members of the family however there is no provision under the Family Law Act and no specific legislation that deals with issues such as the “custody” of a pet whether that be a dog, cat, bird, lizard, fish or any of the wonderful creatures that we share the planet with that would empower a Court to make orders for shared custody of a pet.”