Strata Alert: Dog Win in CRT Dispute Should Give Strata Corporations ‘Paws’ When Enforcing Pet Bylaws

Dog Win in CRT Dispute Should Give Strata Corporations ‘Paws’ When Enforcing Pet Bylaws


By Alex Chang, Associate

The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) in Esfahani v. Strata Plan BCS 2797, 2018 BCCRT 176 recently ruled that a residential strata owner could keep his golden retriever because his strata corporation’s pet bylaw was too vague.

At the time the owner purchased and moved into his strata lot, the retriever was a puppy. The strata, having a bone to pick, advised the owner that his dog did not meet the definition of a “small dog” as defined in the strata’s pet bylaw which reads as follows:

3(4) An owner, tenant or occupant must not keep any pets on a strata lot other than one or more of the following:

(a) a reasonable number of fish or other small aquarium animals;

(b) a reasonable number of small caged mammals;

(c) up to 2 caged birds;

(d) one small dog or cat is permitted; small being defined as an animal that can comfortably be picked up and carried. [Emphasis Added]

The strata argued that while the puppy may have fit within the definition of a “small dog”, that breed of dog would mature into a larger dog which would not be permitted under the pet bylaw. The strata corporation gave a deadline for the dog’s removal, following which they would ‘unleash’ weekly fines on the owner.

The owner, refusing to roll over, argued before the CRT that the absence of any objective, tangible criteria for determining whether a pet is “small” for the purpose of the pet bylaw was fatal to it. He also argued that that his dog met the criteria by providing videos of him picking up the dog.

The strata argued that the CRT should interpret “small dog” as defined by the he American Kennel Club or any other dog related organization. However, the CRT held that the strata corporation was barking up the wrong tree with its arguments.

The CRT Member ruled in favour of the owner and his dog, finding the bylaw too vague for it to be ‘paw-sible’ to objectively interpret and ordering the strata to reverse all the related fines. The CRT Member held:

Considering the wording of the pet bylaw alone leaves a number of questions unanswered. For example, who must be able to pick up and carry the animal? It does not specify that this must be a resident of the strata lot. How long must the person be able to carry the animal for it to qualify? How does one determine what is comfortable? At what point in time should the measurement be made?

Applying the literal meaning of the words, there is evidence that the applicant can pick up and carry the dog. Comfort is a very subjective factor, but there were no signs of distress shown by the applicant when he was holding the dog in his arms. It is true that the dog squirmed when being held up in the air and this might mean that it was not under control. But control is not a component of the pet bylaw definition. The application of the literal meaning is an illustration of the difficulties with the language of the pet bylaw.

I find that there are sufficient uncertainties in the language of the pet bylaw that a reasonably intelligent person would not be able to determine the meaning. There is no objective criteria to determine if a dog is or is not in compliance with the bylaw. There may be cases where a golden retriever weighs less than 35 pounds, in which case it would be a small dog by the American Kennel Club definition. This may be because of age, condition or perhaps breeding.

This case ‘sheds’ light on the principle that bylaws should be clear and be capable of objective interpretation or they risk being declared unenforceable. If a pet bylaw is declared unenforceable and the strata amends the bylaw to clarify its meaning then it will not be able to enforce it against a pet that lives with the owner at the time the bylaw is amended and continues to do so.

Strata corporations should include clear and objective criteria in their pet bylaws. If they do they can generally tell a contravening pet owner, “That’s just ‘ruff’!”


WHAT WE DO:  Lesperance Mendes has the ‘pedigree’ to advise clients on all aspects of bylaw drafting and strata disputes.  If you need help with bylaw drafting or have a strata dispute, contact Paul G Mendes (p:  604-685-4894 / e: or Alex J. Chang (p:  604-685-1255 / e:

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on without independent legal advice with respect to the specific facts of your case.