Judge calls siblings' dispute over dogs 'strange'

In a written judgment released on May 27, 2019, Justice Choo Han Teck (above) said the siblings have brought a "strange matter" to the High Court. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

A long-running dispute between siblings over a house willed to them by their late mother gave a judge pause when the disagreement turned towards whether one of them had the right to move in with two of her dogs.

In a written judgment released on Monday, Justice Choo Han Teck said the siblings have brought a "strange matter" to the High Court.

"The court is not where one goes to for permission to keep pets," he added.

The dispute began when the plaintiff, Madam Rosaline Goh, 64, wanted to move back into the house with her two dogs, a nine-year-old golden retriever and a seven-year-old labrador.

The original owner of the house in 61 Kovan Road, Madam Loh Gek Huay, had bequeathed the two-storey bungalow to her 10 children and one grandson.

However, the defendants and occupants of the house, Mr Goh Lian Chyu, 77, and his wife, did not allow Madam Goh to bring her dogs into the house as they felt the animals were dangerous and dirty.

Justice Choo noted that none of the siblings was quarrelling with the point that Madam Goh was entitled to live in the maternal home if she wanted to, as stipulated by Madam Loh's will.

He said when Madam Loh died in 2002, her will had stated that the executor "shall permit my children above named or any one of them to occupy the same rent free so long as he or she shall desire", and she had meant exactly that.

"So I am left with the small issue of the dogs. The defendants object to the dogs moving in to the house with the plaintiff because they consider the dogs dangerous and dirty," the judge said.

But a person who has a right to live in a house also has the right to decide what she brings along with her, he noted.

"The court is not a dog-licensing authority," he added, stating that as a lawful occupant, Madam Goh was entitled to such pets as are allowed by the relevant authorities.

"There is... no necessity to make a formal judicial declaration since from my reasoning here, it will be obvious to the parties that there is presently no impediment to the plaintiff moving in with her two dogs," Justice Choo said.

"It seems more likely that it is the human siblings who are going to tear each other apart," he added, noting that the siblings had rejected the suggestion to sell the house, each taking their share of the inheritance and living peacefully apart from the other siblings.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2019, with the headline Judge calls siblings' dispute over dogs 'strange'. Subscribe