A recent B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal decision offers a cautionary warning to couples who share pets during a relationship - even after they break up.
In the ruling, a woman was ordered to return a dog to her ex after a complicated arrangement went sour.
The dispute centred around a dog named Bentley, who was shared by a B.C. couple who were in a romantic relationship.
That relationship ended, but the two people continued to share Bentley for eight years after the breakup. (Black Press Media isn’t identifying the two humans as the story is more about the lessons that can be learned from it.)
“The parties say they both paid for Bentley’s initial acquisition cost, and after they broke up, they shared custody of Bentley with each party taking the dog for three weeks at a time before handing him over to the other,” reads the CRT ruling.
This included both people sharing expenses in regards to Bentley.
That arrangement seemed to work for eight years until the woman cut off access to the man, saying she “no longer felt comfortable” with him having access to Bentley.
The exact reason isn’t given, but the woman texted the man to say she has “discovered some pretty upsetting things” about the man, according to the ruling.
In July 2022, the man went to pick up Bentley as per the schedule – along with the police to supervise – but she refused to give up the dog. The man hadn’t seen the dog for about 10 months when the case was heard by the CRT.
The man was asking to get access to Bentley or be compensated with $5,000.
“At law, pets are considered personal property,” reads the ruling. “This can become complicated when personal relationships break down because people do not want their pets treated like other personal property that can be divided or sold to share the proceeds … I acknowledge it can be difficult to determine who has the greater claim to a pet’s ownership and possession.”
Some issues to be considered, according to the ruling, include who bought the pet, did one person own the pet at the start of the relationship and who took the most care of the dog – including exercise. This was complicated because they shared most everything equally with Bentley and the CRT said in its ruling that “clearly, a dog cannot be divided.”
The man argued in the hearing that “Bentley has always had a strong connection with him.” The woman also didn’t detail specific reasons why she was no longer comfortable with the man having access to Bentley, so the adjudicator dismissed that.
The ruling said that the woman unilaterally cutting off access “displays a lack of ability to put Bentley’s best interests above her own personal interests.”
And so, the woman was ordered to return Bentley within 21 days of the decision, plus reimburse the ex for the tribunal fees.
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