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B.C. pair awarded joint custody of dog under change in family law

A former couple purchased Stella the golden retriever in August 2020.
The judge ruled both parties showed "deep concern" about the dog's well-being and awarded joint custody.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has awarded a former couple joint custody of Stella the golden retriever due to changes in the provincial family law.

“The recent amendments to the Family Law Act essentially put the ownership of a companion animal, such as Stella, in the context of something that goes beyond ownership of a chattel,” Justice Scott Nielson said in his March 13 decision. “The sentience of the animal is recognized to the extent that the criteria reflect.”

Sahar Bayat and Omid Mavedati began living together in April 2020 and separated in February 2023.

They purchased Stella in August 2020. The receipt was in Mavedati's name but Nielson said there was an e-transfer for half the cost from Bayat to Mavedati.

Bayat wanted the court to grant her exclusive care of Stella. She said she had contributed financially to Stella’s care over the years.

“The claimant has also created an Instagram page for Stella,” Nielson said.

Bayat also claimed Mavedati was neglectful and cruel toward Stella.

However, Nielson found both parties “have shown a deep concern about the well-being of Stella, and I am satisfied that in the circumstances the custody of Stella should be shared on an interim without‑prejudice basis.”

At that point, Mavedati began peppering the judge with questions about details of the arrangement.

“I am not going to go there today on this application. The order has been made,” Nielson said.