A B.C. woman has been ordered to return a dog back to her ex-boyfriend after the sharing agreement between the two broke down.
According to the Civil Resolution Tribunal, Savannah Austin and Ian Birnie, bought the dog during a 23-month common law relationship.
After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen. That arrangement didn’t work out and Harlen has been in Austin’s custody since November 2018.
According to the decision documents, the duo started living together in June 2015 and broke up in May 2017, when Harlen was eight months old. Austin and Birnie both paid for the dog, which they bought in November 2016.
Both believe they should have custody of the dog in exchange for a $2,000 payment to the other.
Tribunal co-chair Shelley Lopez noted that while both Austin and Birnier are “emotionally attached” to Harlen, “the law is clear that pets should not be treated in law as family members but rather as personal property.”
Lopez said that because evidence shows both parties paid similar amounts and took similar care of Harlen, she would determine who got the dog based on behaviour leading up to Austin’s taking of the dog.
In text messages between August and October 2018, both people “ultimately agreed” that Birnie would keep Harlen. Lopez cited texts from Austin stating “I just gave you Harlen.” Birnie had offered to pay for a new puppy in exchange
“On September 8, 2018, after a series of exchanges about dog expenses and the new puppy cost, the parties ultimately agreed that Mr. Birnie would get to keep Harlen in exchange for a payment of $1,950,” Lopez wrote.
She believes the duo’s “relatively amicable arrangement” went downhill in late September, when Austin entered Birnie’s home without permission to take belongings she had left there.
Despite this, Austin reaffirmed on Oct. 3 she would give Harlen up in the spring of 2019, when she got the new puppy, but agreed she would give the dog to Birnie for the Christmas holidays.
Documents state that a week after Birnie dropped off Harlen with Austin in November, “she messaged him saying she was taking Harlen and to not contact her again.”
She told Birnie they could “touch base in the spring,” but did not respond further to multiple texts from him. between Nov. 30, 2018, and April 8, 2019.
Lopez wrote she found Austin’s agreement to hand over Harlen in exchange for $1950 an “enforceable agreement” and that Birnie has the stronger claim to the dog.
Lopez ordered Austin to deliver the dog, at cost, to Birnie in exchange for $1,950 within 45 days of the Nov. 12 decision.