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B.C. judge orders shared dog custody for exes who both 'clearly love Stella'


Many pet owners will agree their furball isn't just a friend, they're family – but what happens when a family breaks up?

In a first-of-its-kind ruling, a B.C. judge has awarded a former couple joint custody of their dog.

According to the B.C. Supreme Court decision, the dispute around ownership of the golden retriever, Stella, was between Sahar Bayat and Omid Mavedati.

Bayat was seeking “exclusive custody.” There was a debate over who owned the dog, as only Mavedati’s name was on Stella’s birth certificate, according to court documents.

“I have been shown the receipt for Stella which is in (Mavedati’s) name, and I have also been shown an e transfer from (Bayat) to (Mavedati), for precisely half the value of Stella that was made at the time of Stella's purchase,” associate judge Scott Nielsen wrote.

Nielsen noted both Bayat and Mavedati “clearly love Stella,” and that the pair showed “a deep concern about the well-being” of the dog.

Ultimately, the judge decided to split things 50/50 on a one week on, one week off basis.

The ruling is historic, coming just months after B.C. adopted changes in January to the Family Law Act recognizing pets as more than property.

“If people have the right to fight over their kids in court … they should have the exact same right to fight over their companion animal, because after all, companion animals are family,” said Rebeka Breder, an animal law lawyer based in Vancouver.

Breder has been litigating pet custody battles for about 15 years, and said in most cases what’s best for the pet is shared custody.

She said the changes to the Family Law Act mean now the court is required to consider what’s in the pet’s best interest.

“In the same way when a couple who has human kids separates and the couple doesn’t want to have anything to do with one another, they unfortunately still have to … because they have children they have to share,” she said.

“The same should apply when it comes to companion animals.”

The Supreme Court must consider seven factors when determining pet custody, including the extent to which each spouse cared for the animal, if a spouse is cruel to the animal, and whether the animal has a relationship with any children.

Breder added exes don’t need to go all the way to the Supreme Court to work out custody of their cat or dog. She suggested going to small claims court to start.

CTV News reached out to both of Stella’s owners for comment. No one responded by deadline. Top Stories

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