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Provincial Court of British Columbia: jurisdiction over a pet dog

A recent Provincial Court of British Columbia decision made a ruling about a pet dog.

While courts have been reluctant to make custody or access orders in regard to family pets, in the decision of Custodio v. Pucci, the Honourable Judge J. Challenger found that the court had jurisdiction to make an order in regard to family pets (if they are treated as property):

The court has jurisdiction under s. 3(1)(b) of the Act to order the return of a dog as a dog is considered a piece of property.  In Watson v. Hayward, a decision of my sister Judge Dhillon, rendered July 2, 2002 reported at 2002 BCPC 259 (CanLII), 2002 BCPC 259, she canvassed the legal principles applicable in such a matter.

On such an application the court must consider whether there is an issue to be tried, and I am satisfied on Ms. Custodio’s evidence that there is an issue to be tried, whether she has demonstrated a strong prima facie case and based on the documents and her evidence, if that was accepted by the court, indeed she has a strong prima facie case and likely a strong case at trial.  The third issue is whether irreparable harm will result not compensable by damages at common law if the interim order is not granted and, finally, where the balance of convenience lies.

Judge Dhillon distinguished cases involving pets from cases involving inanimate pieces of property.  That case involved a breeder who had reclaimed a dog as a result of what was alleged to be neglect of the dog by the person who had purchased it from the breeder which distinguishes the case on its facts.

The “Act” that is being referred to above is the Small Claims Act.  Section 3(1)(b) of that Act gives the Provincial Court of British Columbia:

3  (1) The Provincial Court has jurisdiction in a claim for

(a) debt or damages,

(b) recovery of personal property,

(c) specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services, or

(d) relief from opposing claims to personal property

if the amount claimed or the value of the personal property or services is equal to or less than an amount that is prescribed by regulation, excluding interest and costs.

(2) The Provincial Court does not have jurisdiction in a claim for libel, slander or malicious prosecution.

So, if your family pet is worth $25,000.00 or less, you can bring a claim in the Provincial Court of British Columbia (see Small Claims BC as a starting point).  If your pet is worth more than $25,000.00 the Supreme Court of British Columbia would be the court to hear your case (unless you decide to abandon the portion of your claim over $25,000.00, in which case you could still proceed in the Provincial Court of British Columbia).

“If you are keeping a white lion cub (apparently $138,000.00) as a pet in British Columbia you are going to have some other legal issues arise …”