BC man takes ex to court to battle over dog custody
A BC man who shared ownership of a dog with his ex, has filed a small claim against her after she stopped returning their dog back to him.
Jeffrey Wayne and Christina McInulty, who were in a romantic relationship, bought their European Doberman named Bentley together.
Shortly after getting their dog, they broke up but shared ownership of Bentley for the next eight years.
McInulty and Bond would share Bentley’s expenses and take him for three weeks at a time before handing him over to one another.
However, last June, McInulty texted Bond that she “discovered some pretty upsetting things” about him and she no longer felt comfortable interacting with him or letting Bentley stay with him.
“McInulty advised she would be keeping Bentley. In subsequent text messages, Ms. McInulty refused to tell Mr. Bond what the allegations were,” the decision reads. “She says this was to protect the unidentified person who allegedly disclosed the concerns to her.”
When it was time for McInulty to give Bentley back to Bond after her three weeks with him, Bond attempted to retrieve the dog with police supervision.
But McInulty refused and Bond has not seen the dog since.
Through the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Bond seeked either his ex return Bentley to him or pay $5,000 for the dog’s expenses over the years.
Since McInulty was unable to explain what she meant when she said she learned “upsetting things” about Bond, the tribunal member said, “There is no indication at all that the behaviour related to Mr. Bond’s ability to care for Bentley. So, I put no weight on Ms. McInulty’s unsupported allegation.”
“At law, pets are considered personal property. 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,” the tribunal member explained. “I acknowledge it can be difficult to determine who has the greater claim to a pet’s ownership and possession.”
The tribunal member even pointed to new guidance the provincial government has proposed to help judges decide what happens to a family pet when a couple separates.
“However, these proposed amendments deal specifically with cases under the FLA [Family Law Act], which does not apply here, and the amendments are not yet in force,” they continued.
Despite McInulty now having sole possession over Bentley for 10 months, which may have cemented the dog’s Bond with her, the tribunal member said, “Given the parties’ history of amicably sharing Bentley for 8 years without incident, I find both parties are able to care for him.”
“In fact, I find that Ms. McInulty unilaterally removing the dog from one of its owners, Mr. Bond, without any explanation about the allegedly ‘upsetting’ behaviour or how it may have been dog-related, displays a lack of ability to put Bentley’s best interests above her own personal interests,” the decision goes on to read.
While the tribunal member said they accept McInulty provided good care for Bentley, “I find Mr. Bond is better suited to care for him.”
McInulty has since been ordered to return Bentley to Bond and reimburse him for tribunal fees.