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Are Pets Property?

We’ve written before about what happens to ownership of a dog when a relationship ends. But what about happens to that pet if one partner passes away?

A Brampton court will answer this question for the first time in Ontario later this summer.

Aliesha Verma claims that in February 2022, her late boyfriend, Leonard Carvalho, gifted her Rocco Junior, a six-week-old mixed-breed puppy. Ever since then, Rocco Junior has been in Verma’s possession.

However, when Carvalho passed, his Will did not mention Rocco Junior. Instead, the Will contains a general clause about property that Carvalho’s family is relying on to advance a claim for Rocco Junior.

Carvalho’s sister has filed a notice of application claiming that Verma was never the legal owner of Rocco, that Verma has refused to return the dog, that Verma’s possession of the dog is unlawful, and asking for the dog to be handed over to the Carvalho family.

Currently, animals are viewed as property under Ontario law. Carvalho’s family is relying on this view to make their claim for Rocco Junior. If the court finds that Rocco Junior was Carvalho’s property during his life, the dog will ultimately be considered part of the estate property. As estate property Rocco Junior will be removed from Verma’s possession and given to Carvalho’s family. However, Verma’s lawyer is going to make the argument that Rocco Junior was a gift given to Verma by Carvalho, making the dog her property.

Unfortunately, as the law currently stands, unless companion animals are specifically mentioned in your estate plan, they will be treated as personal property. The best way to ensure that your wishes for your estate are protected and respected following your death is to meet with a lawyer and draft a valid will. Including your companion animals in your estate plan can help ensure they are well taken care of following your death.

At Daniel & Partners LLP, our dedicated and experienced estates team will work diligently to ensure that your estate planning needs are met. We offer a full range of services, from simple wills and powers of attorney to complex estate planning, trusts, and guardianship matters. Contact our office to arrange an initial consultation as soon as possible to get our team started on your case.