Animal Law, California, Divorce Train Wrecks, Pets

Custody Battle Costs Man His ‘Life Savings’ — We’re Talking About A Dog Custody Battle

Knuckles, the pooch in question.

How far would you go, how much would you pay, in order to get your dog back?

One New York man is being forced to ask that question. He’s suing his ex-girlfriend to gain custody of his dog. She claims that he gave her the dog as a gift. He claims he left it with her when he was looking for a post-breakup apartment, and she absconded with it to California.

I claim pet custody issues should be handled in family court instead of like mere property cases….

The New York Post carries the story of Craig Dershowitz, who is starting an online collection for money to continue the pursuit of his dog, Knuckles:

Craig Dershowitz says he’s already spent upwards of $60,000 in his court fight for the pooch he considers his “son,” and now he’s turning to the World Wide Web in hopes of raising another $20,000 to keep his quest alive.

“I’ve pretty much gone through my life savings,” the 34-year-old gallery employee said, but he quickly added, “It’s worth it.”

In papers filed earlier this year in Manhattan Supreme Court, Dershowitz said ex-girlfriend Sarah Brega “took unilateral control of Knuckles and kidnapped him” after they broke up — spiriting the dog away to California.

I think there are a lot of guys who would rather lose the girl and keep the dog than the other way around.

Even though I fundamentally sympathize with the man who feels like the dog is his child, there are limits. For instance, applying a “best interests of the child” standard to the dog gets pretty silly, pretty quickly:

“Knuckles lives a happy and healthy life in California with me, where he has ample room to play, and lives in close proximity to a beach for off-leash dog-park outings,” Brega said in court papers.

Dershowitz said Knuckles “hates water” anyway — and is a tried-and-true New Yorker.

Again, I want to acknowledge that anthropomorphizing a dog as a “New Yorker” or a “beach bum” is fundamentally stupid. It’s a dog. It wants food and tummy rubs and protection from bigger dogs.

But as long as we’re here, I really can’t stand Californians who just assume that every dog prefers to be walking around on a beach or in a field “off leash” in hot-ass California. I, for instance, have a Lhasa Apso. She hates the heat. She hates water and sand. The only time my dog even wants to be outside is when there are three inches of snow on the ground. Not every dog needs the free roam space and nice for humans weather of the left coast.

And that’s a point that shouldn’t cost $60,000 to make in court.

Dogs are not property, but they’re not children either. Unfortunately, the law tends to try to reduce disparate things into overarching categories. But different things are different. Talking on a cell phone isn’t the same thing as writing a letter, driving a car is not like riding a horse, and having a dog is not like owning a heirloom, nor is it like having a child. (I’m guessing — my wife’s not due till October, so I guess I’ll find out soon.)

Would it be crazy to have special courts designed specifically to deal with pets? We’ve already got special courts set up for things that people care about a lot less than their pets, so would it really be going too far to train a few family court judges in every jurisdiction to specialize in pet disputes?

Maybe it sounds crazy now, but I bet Pet Court would make a great 2:00 p.m. show on the WB.

Owner pleads for cash to continue fighting for dog custody [New York Post]

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments