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No $2,500 refund for dead cat, B.C. tribunal rules

Susan Ellis went to the Civil Resolution Tribunal to either get a refund or her vet bills covered.
Winston the cat was put down on July 20, 2022.

A cat breeder does not have to refund a B.C. woman the $2,500 she paid for a British shorthair cat, the Civil Resolution Tribunal ruled Jan. 23.

The small claims decision revolves around Winston. Susan Ellis bought Winston from breeder Jacqueline Thiel, according to tribunal documents.

Ellis claimed Winston immediately showed signs of sickness when she received him. She went to the tribunal seeking either a refund of Winston’s $2,500 purchase price, or for Thiel to pay Winston’s $3,027 vet bills.

In her decision, tribunal vice-chair Andrea Ritchie said Ellis agreed to buy Winston, a bred kitten, from Thiel on Jan. 10, 2022. The parties signed a written agreement, and, on Jan. 19, 2022, Ellis paid Thiel and took Winston home.

Ellis argued she was given an unhealthy kitten, contrary to their agreement.

Thiel denied that.

Over the next six months, Winston was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection, giardia and upper respiratory issues, including a positive PCR test for mycoplasma. He was treated and appeared to be recovering, Ritchie said.

However, in June 2022, Winston began coughing again and tested positive for feline coronavirus. The vet told Ellis that Winston’s test results and symptoms were consistent with feline infectious peritonitis, a fatal condition.

“Sadly, Winston was euthanized on July 20, 2022,” Ritchie said.

The tribunal noted the contract explicitly prohibited cost recovery for expenses related to giardia.

Ellis said Thiel should be responsible for vet bills for Winston’s respiratory issues.

However, the contract said Thiel retained the right to confirm any diagnosis by having the cat examined by her own vet, something Ellis would not do.

“The contract states Mrs. Thiel had the right to request a second opinion and I find Ms. Ellis breached the contract by refusing to allow that second opinion,” Ritchie said.

When it came to the fatal diagnosis, the contract said the seller would not be responsible for feline coronavirus. Thiel said the only way to confirm the fatal diagnosis was through a necropsy (a post-mortem examination), which Ellis failed to do, though required to by the contract.

Ritchie ruled Thiel complied with her contract obligations.

“I find Ms. Ellis has failed to prove Mrs. Thiel breached the parties’ agreement such that Ms. Ellis would be entitled to a refund or reimbursement of vet bills,” Ritchie said.