Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Dogs are property, not kids, B.C. judge tells former couple

Court decision made on competing lawsuits over Zeus and Aurora — a pit bull and pit bull cross

By Tim Petruk

Kamloops This Week

Dogs are not children — nor are they toasters.

So ruled a Kamloops judge in the case of a former Salmon Arm couple suing each other over a pair of pit bulls they bought while together.

Raiann Almaas and Michael David Wheeler each filed competing lawsuits over Aurora, a pit bull cross purchased in 2015, and Zeus, a pit bull bought in 2016.

When the dogs were bought, Almaas and Wheeler lived together and were involved in a romantic relationship. They broke up in December 2017 and stopped living together a few months later.

Wheeler paid for the dogs, court heard, but Almaas provided much of the care for them while Wheeler worked out of town for stretches sometimes lasting two months.

During trial, which took place over one day each in November and January, Wheeler said Aurora and Zeus were treated as though they were the couple’s children.

Court heard Almaas had the dogs for the majority of the time between Wheeler moving out in early 2018 and May 2019. She estimated she paid about $2,500 for their care in that time.

Almaas said she gave the dogs to Wheeler on May 26, 2019, on the understanding he would have them for two weeks. He did not return them, court heard.

Read more: Vernon’s beloved pudgy pit bull moved to Cranbrook

Read more: Bystander who tried to help dog being attacked not liable for its death: B.C. tribunal

Read more: Eleven dogs rescued; transported from Texas to the Okanagan despite pandemic

Almaas sued, seeking the return of the dogs and repayment for vet bills she had covered — totalling more than $13,500.

Wheeler’s counterclaim sought $12,187 for the cost of the dogs, training expenses and vet bills, as well as 50/50 shared custody of Aurora and Zeus.

In her decision, made public on Thursday, April 2, Kamloops provincial court Judge Stella Frame said the court cannot treat pets like kids, so no shared parenting can be implemented.

“The law is clear that dogs, even those purchased in the course of a relationship as a family pet, are property,” Frame said. “It is the nature of that property and how ownership of it is determined that is a bit more unique to pet cases than it is to toasters or other inanimate objects.”

Frame figuratively cut the baby in half — ordering that Almaas keep Aurora and Wheeler keep Zeus.

Frame dismissed all claims for money.

“In the end result, both parties own these dogs,” she said. “Ms. Almaas wanted Aurora for company and clearly drew comfort from her. Mr. Wheeler loves these dogs as well.”

Frame ordered the exchange of the animals and any of their toys or property take place by April 15. She also required that Almaas and Wheeler comply with social distancing during the exchange.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CourtSalmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

The current state of the Royal Hotel. (Photo Contributed by Richard Leeks)
‘No one is willing to step up to take any responsibility’: Royal owners plow on with renovictions

Heat, kitchen appliances, doors, running water and WiFi have been allegedly removed

RDEK reminds public to register for their emergency notification system. File photo.
RDEK reminds residents to register for East Kootenay Evacuation Notification System

Provincial Alert system cannot be used for local emergencies

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
City of Fernie: New orders a challenge, but community is supportive

Mayor Qualizza said that the new public health orders were an opportunity to safeguard the winter season

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Most Read