NEW JERSEY: Warring NJ ex-fiancees take dogfight over pug to court – by New York Divorce Attorney

Pet Custody

Flicr by Zoomar
Flickr by Zoomar

Michael Vick watch out. Yours is not the only dog fight in town…
I was skimming the New York Law Journal today and came across this story of a NJ couple who went to court over their pet pug, Dexter (and a piece of real estate). Eric Dare and a “Ms. Houseman” were a couple engaged and living together in New Jersey for about 13 years. (Not necessarily in that order.) In 2003 they bought a pet pug, named him Dexter, and proceeded to treat him like he was their baby. They dressed him in fancy clothes, had his portraits taken by professional photographers, fed him expensive food, threw him parties and dressed up the little guy in fancy costumes. And then, they broke up. And all hell broke loose cause they couldn’t decide which one of them should get custody of Dexter.
Well, to be fair, in the beginning it seems like they were pretty mature about it and they “shared custody” of the canine. But it came a time when Ms. Houseman went off on vacation and left Dexter visiting with his daddy and when she came back, Eric basically refused to give her the little one back. His position was tantamount to a dare, “Sue me.” So she did. She sued him in State Supreme. They went to trial and there was even an appeal that drew “two animal rights groups as amici.”
In the final analysis, the court declined to treat the pet as a child and treated the pet as property but gave the parties equal visiting time with the dog. So one party would have the dog for, say, 5 weeks, then the other party gets the dog for 5 weeks, until, I guess the pug dies. The court expressly declined to adopt a “best interest of the pet” standard in dealing with this issue of who gets custody of the pet. Said the Court:

He might be cute and he might be furry but he’s still property. This case can never be about parenting time. This court wants to move onto matters of parents and children.

Hm. Well, I guess. But as a pet owner, I have to say, my cat is definitely my baby and he’s not property. He’s practically a person – even he is convinced of this. And my only objection to this whole thing is the court labeling the pug as property. I mean, women were once property too and we came around as sensible, civilized society and did away with that. Soon, hopefully, we’ll see the light with respect to pets as well. Cause they are much, much more than just property, your honor. They really are.
more by New York Divorce Attorney