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

Funding available for Elk Valley charities coping with COVID-19

Almost $110,000 is set aside to be distributed by the Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies

Elk Valley businesses reopen after months of closures

Opening with restrictions, local services keep health and safety a priority

Mental health and COVID-19: going forward

Dr. Tyla Charbonneau offers some mental health advice for moving into our new normal

Elk Valley businesses announce permanent closures

Three local businesses will not be reopning their brick and mortar stores

Possible Kermode Bear spotted near Castlegar

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run on May 27

Vancouver Island bride held wedding in seniors home so dying stepdad could walk her down aisle

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Suspect in West Kootenay gas station stabbing found dead

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Most Read