Judge Rejects 'Dog Equal to Child' Argument in Custody Case

A New Jersey appeals court has stepped in to resolve an ex-couple’s dispute over custody of the pug dog “Dexter.”

The couple bought Dexter when they were engaged, but got into the
custody battle after they broke up. The woman claimed the pair had an
oral agreement entitling her to Dexter; she sued for specific
performance of this agreement, a remedy available when the subject
matter of an agreement is one-of-a-kind. The trial court found the oral
agreement existed, but it allowed the man to keep the dog because he
had possession of it. The court awarded the woman the $1,500 the couple
paid for Dexter.

On appeal, the court set new precedent in New Jersey, finding the
dog had “unique sentimental value” to the woman, so the remedy of
specific performance was available. The man’s lawyer predicted the
ruling would complicate and delay divorce cases. “Wait until you see
the backlog in the courts when we start having custody hearings on
pets,” he said. “That’s the natural progression.”

The court rejected the amicus brief argument by Lawyers in Defense
of Animals claiming custody should be determined by a
best-interest-of-the-pet standard, a version of the standard governing
child custody.

Read the Opposing Views debate, Should Animals Have the Same Rights as People?

Source: Mary Pat Gallagher, “New Business for Courts: Pet
Custody, Judges may invoke specific performance remedy, N.J. appeals
panel says,” New Jersey Law Journal, March 12, 2009, via overlawyered


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