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Pet dog named Peanut must be returned after breakup, B.C. tribunal rules

A corgi is seen in this undated stock image. (Shutterstock) A corgi is seen in this undated stock image. (Shutterstock)

The co-owner of a dog named Peanut has been ordered to return the pet to their ex after a custody dispute was heard by B.C.'s small claims tribunal.

The decision, shared online Monday, said the applicant claimed the respondent was withholding Peanut from her, even though the pair had worked out a time-sharing arrangement. Tribunal member Megan Stewart wrote the applicant wanted "full custody" of Peanut in exchange for an $875 "buyout" paid to her ex.

The respondent, however, argued the applicant "kept trying to unreasonably change the parties' time-sharing agreement," so they decided to keep Peanut until a legal agreement was made.

B.C. made changes this year to its Family Law Act, which no longer considers pets to be property in divorce proceedings. 

But in this case, Stewart wrote, the couple was not married and was living in a "marriage-like relationship," for less than two years. As a result, they weren't considered spouses as defined by the Family Law Act, and the decision would be handled as a small claims personal property matter.

Stewart explained the couple began living together and bought Peanut in 2019. They broke up in March 2021 and initially agreed to exchange Peanut every couple of days. In October 2022, the exes agreed to try longer periods of time between exchanges, as the applicant felt the frequency was unsustainable.

"The evidence suggests there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication about when the exchange would happen, and the respondent returned Peanut late," Stewart wrote. "This led to a disagreement about whether the applicant could keep Peanut longer, which ended with police involvement. Shortly after that, the respondent decided not to continue sharing Peanut with the applicant."

Who keeps Peanut?

When making her decision over who would take possession of Peanut, Stewart said the two parties didn't dispute they paid equally for her and both seemed to acknowledge their co-ownership. Stewart also determined the exes relatively shared the costs of grooming, vet bills and pet insurance.

Stewart said it was clear both parties were capable of properly caring for Peanut, if they were awarded sole ownership.

"The parties each describe strong bonds they forged with Peanut," Stewart wrote. "The applicant also highlights the relationship between Peanut and her adult daughter, with whom she lives … The applicant says Peanut helped her daughter manage her mental health condition through difficult teenage years, and could continue to do so going forward."

The respondent also said Peanut had been "instrumental in supporting them to manage their mental health condition," Stewart said.

While Stewart acknowledged those strong bonds, she determined the respondent's choice to "unilaterally" take Peanut was "of significant importance" to her decision.

"I find their behaviour indicates they were unwilling or unable to consider whether their actions were in Peanut's best interests, given the existing bonds between Peanut and the applicant's family members," Stewart's decision said.

"In addition, while the respondent suggests they withheld Peanut in response to the applicant being unwilling to agree to a reasonable time-sharing schedule, I find it is the respondent who breached the agreement to share Peanut on a regular schedule."

Stewart ultimately ordered the respondent to return Peanut to the applicant within 30 days of the decision. Top Stories

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