The owner of a controversial “dog kennel” that caused a stir in Napanee in the winter of 2022 recently lost a challenge in court.
In the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, Associate Justice Sam Rappos approved a motion to set aside a default judgment that would have seen Zohaib Masood, the breeder of American Bully dogs, receive tens of thousands of dollars. This latest decision came after a late August 2023 hearing before Rappos via videoconference, regarding a contract Masood says was broken between him and the defendants, Christopher Ryan Silliker and Lindsay Smith.
According to court records, Masood and his lawyers told the judge he was “a dog breeder” and “carries on a kennel business in Napanee, Ontario under the name Valour Kennels.” However, it should be noted that Valour Kennels, as he calls it, seems to have been abandoned shortly after drawing the ire of local animal rights experts. The property at 5930 County Road 9 in Napanee has been for sale as per the photos below taken July 17, 2023, and, as of November 21, 2023, it is listed for sale on Realtor.ca, where some of the aerial photos show the large black-roofed kennel structure on the property.
Masood claimed he had entered into guardian contracts with the defendants regarding three female dogs he owned. Christopher Ryan Silliker and Lindsay Smith, who reside in Hamilton, Ontario, and are common-law spouses, first met Masood in the summer of 2021 when they purchased a puppy from him.
Under the contracts, the defendants were to provide, among other things, day-to-day care for the dogs and/or their puppies, Masood’s team noted.
Rappos noted in his summary of facts that the parties had a breakdown in their relationship: “As a result, [Masood] commenced this action against the defendants seeking, among other things, return of the dogs and puppies, and damages for breach of the guardian contracts.”
In Ontario, when a plaintiff begins a litigation, they must personally serve the defendant with their statement of claim against them. The defendant is then required to serve the plaintiff with a statement of defence within 20 days of being served with the claim. The statement of defence sets out the reasons the defendant says they should not have to compensate the plaintiff.
If a defendant cannot serve the statement of defence within the specified time, the defendant can give the plaintiff a notice of intent to defend; this notice gives the defendant 10 extra days to deliver a statement of defence. If the defendant still does not file a statement of defence within the required time frame, the plaintiff can ask the court to note the defendant in default and then obtain a default judgment against the defendant.
According to the court records, after he commenced his action, Massod “noted the defendants in default” for failing to serve a statement of defence, and he obtained a default judgment signed by the registrar.
However, Rappos wrote, “The defendants bring a motion for an order setting aside the noting in default, setting aside the default judgment, and permitting them to serve and file a statement of defence.”
Rappos granted this motion and listed his reasons for the record, a summary of which follows.
First, he noted that Masood and his lawyers argued that the defendants’ motion should be dismissed because the couple “failed to file a defence under the Rules of Civil Procedure and have no plausible explanation for the default” and because “the defendants do not have an arguable defence.” Masood’s team also accused the couple of trying to “game the system” and taking a “calculated risk” by “not defending the claim in a timely manner.”
The judge wrote that Masood and the couple entered into three separate contracts between May 5 and July 6, 2022, whereby the couple would assume responsibility for two female American Bully Dogs, Nala and London, as well as their puppies. Masood and the defendants agreed, according to Rappos, that the defendants were to care for puppies from the litter of another dog, Paris.
Rappos also noted that the defendants said there were also verbal agreements that amended the terms of the London guardian contract and the Nala guardian contract, stipulating that the defendants did not have to return London and Nala to Masood.
The defendants alleged that there were significant health issues with the birthing mothers and the litters, and that Masood was negligent in the care he provided to his dogs. On February 23, 2023, Masood claimed he was informed by the defendants that Nala had been spayed without his written consent. But the defendants said Masood did agree to the spaying in writing before its completion.
Masood also alleged that the defendants breached the agreement by not returning Nala’s puppies to him, while the defendants’ position is that the puppies were not returned due to Masood’s neglect of his dogs. Masood also claimed that the defendants had London spayed, whereas the defendants denied having done so. Masood further claimed that the defendants “have made false and misleading posts about him on social media,” but he did not produce any evidence of this.
On April 17, 2023, Masood sent a letter to the defendants demanding a return of the dogs and payment of damages. On May 5, 2023, this proceeding was commenced. Masood sought the return of London, Nala, and Paris’s three puppies; payments of $45,000 for breach of contract; removal of defamatory social media posts; a cease and desist order; and punitive and/or exemplary damages.
Dates and times were very important to the judge, who noted, “In these circumstances, I believe there is a plausible explanation for the defendants’ s default in delivering a statement of defence… I have reviewed the defendants’ draft statement of defence. Based on my review, I am satisfied that the defence has an air of reality.”
As for accusations that the defendants had “gamed the system” by not defending their claim promptly, Rappos found nothing in the evidence to support this argument.
Thus the default judgment was set aside, and Rappos ordered Masood to pay $3,500 in costs to the defendants within 30 days.
Since the time of our original coverage of this dog kennel, Kingstonist has received multiple reports alleging Masood’s business is a “roaming” puppy mill and not a kennel.
This is a developing story with more to come.