Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia court decides who owns Fluffy the cat after tenancy dispute

Every day in this country, courts struggle with important issues: constitutional questions, fraud, murder charges and what to do with "Fluffy, also known as Black Puss, Black Foot, and Mr. Puss, depending on whom you talk to, and in what context."

'The issue is not who is the better 'cat parent,' but who in law is its owner,' writes adjudicator

A silhouette of a cat sitting in a doorway is shown in this file photo. This cat is not Fluffy. (Dana and George/Shutterstock)

Every day in this country, courts struggle with important issues: constitutional questions, fraud, murder charges and what to do with "Fluffy, also known as Black Puss, Black Foot, and Mr. Puss, depending on whom you talk to, and in what context."

That last legal issue is contained in a decision released Thursday by Nova Scotia small claims adjudicator Raffi Balmanoukian.

"The issue," Balmanoukian wrote, "is who, if anyone, 'owns' the cat."

He noted that "Dogs have owners. Cats have staff."

The case pitted Donald Myatt against his former tenants, Ashley Benjamin and Jacob Cameron. They lived for six years in a building Myatt owned in Williams Point, N.S.

"The issue is not who is the better 'cat parent,' but who in law is its owner," wrote Balmanoukian.

When the tenants moved, they took the cat with them. They said the feline had essentially adopted them and that Myatt had "abandoned" the cat.

Arguments and evidence were heard over three evenings.

'Community cat'

Myatt's 13-year-old daughter, Meghan, testified. She referred to it as "the community cat" and she said she thought it would remain at Williams Point. But the girl also conceded that she felt the defendant, Benjamin, would take good care of the animal.

The defendants accused Myatt of abandoning the cat when he moved out of the building. But witnesses said the cat was a fixture there and greeted everyone and got treats from several tenants. There was also evidence that Myatt returned to his building on an almost daily basis and would interact with the cat when he saw it, which depended on the cat's schedule, not his.

Cameron was asked why, when first questioned about the cat's whereabouts after he moved out, he denied any knowledge. Cameron testified that the cat had disappeared for about a week and only returned later.

In the end, Balmanoukian ruled Myatt had not abandoned Fluffy in the legal sense.

"It was also evident to me that much if not all of this dispute is grounded in the animus that surrounded the end of the tenancy," Balmanoukian wrote.

"Mr. Cameron testified that he was 'pissed off' and, whatever the circumstances by which the cat was left behind or not taken when they moved, he did nothing to put Mr. Myatt's understandings aright when the cat was relocated."

Balmanoukian ruled that Fluffy be returned to Myatt.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 40 years, the last 31 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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