Court ruling gives kennels right to hold pets until bills are paid

·3 min read
Otto, an American staffordshire terrier, is currently housed at the P.E.I. Humane Society in Charlottetown, where he is awaiting adoption. Otto was not a participant in the recent court ruling.  (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)
Otto, an American staffordshire terrier, is currently housed at the P.E.I. Humane Society in Charlottetown, where he is awaiting adoption. Otto was not a participant in the recent court ruling. (Brian Higgins/CBC - image credit)

A ruling from P.E.I.'s Court of Appeal affirms the rights of kennel operators to hold onto animals in their care until pet owners settle up unpaid bills.

It confirms that pet dogs are indeed property that can be held for payment by service providers, including kennels, according to P.E.I.'s Warehouseman's Lien Act.

The case involved two border collies that were placed in a P.E.I. kennel by their owner in November 2017. What was intended to be a two-day stay in the kennel for $20, turned into weeks.

Court heard that the dogs' owner extended the dogs' stay on at least three occasions. After nearly a month, the owner was sent a bill for $860.69, which included costs for veterinary care.

But the owner was willing to pay only $20, as originally contracted, and when the kennel operator declined to release the dogs, the fur began to fly.

The owner filed a lawsuit to get the dogs back, and the kennel operator counter-sued.

Kennel operator lost in small-claims court

A trial took place in small claims court in 2018. The judge found the bill was reasonable, but ruled the kennel had no right to keep the dogs against the owner's wishes. As such, the judge ruled the dogs' owner was entitled to be paid damages, and so the judge cancelled the $860.69 debt owed to the kennel.

But after a hearing in June, in which the kennel operator and dog owner both represented themselves without the aid of lawyers, the P.E.I. Court of Appeal found the kennel operator did indeed have the right to hold the dogs for payment.

Dogs are subject to liens

The appeal court ruled that the P.E.I. Warehousemen's Act creates a "lien over the dogs when the owner transferred the dogs for kennel services." The court found the definition of "goods" in the act includes dogs as personal property. The court also ruled that commercial kennel operators are persons "lawfully engaged in the business of storing goods" as defined by the act.

The P.E.I. Humane Society said it was not surprised by the decision. Officials say it's standard practice in many veterinary clinics.

"This kind of thing happens very frequently. The animal is held until the bill is paid," said Ashley Travis, communications and development director at the P.E.I. Humane Society.

"In the case of this kennel operator, they're providing a service for that creature and they deserve to be fairly compensated."

Pet owner ordered to pay

The court ordered the dogs' owner to pay $2,575.69, to cover the kennel operator's court costs, plus the original bill.

The border collies were turned over to a third party and were returned to their owner at the time of the original trial.

The appeal court ruled the owner is now free to keep the dogs, but still owes the kennel money.

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