'Court is not where one goes to for permission to keep pets': Judge on siblings' dog dispute

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

SINGAPORE - A long-running dispute between siblings centred around a house willed to them by their late mother has taken a strange turn - with the disagreement now turning towards whether one of them had the right to move in with two of her dogs.

In a written judgment released on Monday (May 27), 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 where she had lived to her 10 children and one grandson.

However, the defendants and occupants of the house, Mr Goh Lian Chyu, 77, and his wife, had not allowed Madam Goh to bring her dogs into the house as they believe the dogs are dangerous and dirty.

Justice Choo noted that none of the siblings are quarrelling with the point that Madam Goh is entitled to reside in the House if she wants to, according to Madam Loh's will.

He said when Madam Loh, who died in 2002, declared that the executor "shall permit my children abovenamed or any one of them to occupy the same rent free so long as he or she shall desire", she 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," added Justice Choo.

He said a person who has a right to move into a house also has the right to decide what she brings along with her.

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

"There is, therefore, in my view, 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, Govi and Lap," Justice Choo added.

Elaborating on his decision, Justice Choo said that "I am comforted in ruling as I do because I think the dogs will probably be the most benign occupants in the house".

"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 her share of the inheritance and living peacefully apart from the other siblings.

"So now they have to live with each other. True misery is what we create for ourselves.

"If the parties here can see what's coming, from the acrimony so obvious in their affidavits, they have to make peace quickly - or else sell the House."

He ordered the parties to bear their own legal costs.

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