Dog in court
iStockphoto/Barna Tanko

A dog that was taken by a man’s former companion properly belongs to his estate, an Ontario court ruled — and it ordered that the dog must be returned to the estate’s trustee.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice ruled that Rocco Jr., a bull terrier, which was owned by Leonard Carvalho, until he died in 2022, must be returned to the estate trustee, Carvalho’s sister Arlete.

According to the court, after Carvalho died in November 2022, his one-time companion, Aliesha Verma, took the dog to live with her.

However, the estate’s trustee brought an application seeking the return of the dog, arguing that it properly belonged to the estate. Verma argued that the dog was hers.

The dog was not covered by Carvalho’s will, which divides his estate among his two sisters and a third woman, another former companion.

“Dogs are personal property much like other chattels (albeit indivisible), even when purchased during the course of a relationship. The question is one of ownership, not who wants the dog more, who loves the dog more or who would be the best owner,” the court said.

While the question of ownership has traditionally been determined by who paid for an animal, “More recent cases have taken a broader approach, looking at the relationship between the parties and the dog and considered a non-exclusive list of factors,” the court said — this broader set of factors includes who raised the dog, cared for it, and paid for its ongoing expenses.

In this case, the court found that Carvalho owned the dog, that he never gifted it to Verma, and that the dog belongs to the estate.

As a result, it ordered that Rocco Jr. be returned to the estate trustee by March 15.

“The court trusts that the return will be accomplished in a manner which is safe and respectful for all concerned,” it said.