Pets: Property or family?

A New Jersey judge must rule on the ownership of a pug after its owners break up
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Aug 28, 2009
By dvm360.com staff

A custody battle over a 6-year-old pug in New Jersey could have far reaching consequences to the veterinary profession. When Eric Dare and Doreen Houseman broke up three years ago, they couldn’t agree on who would keep Dexter. They split custody for a while, but eventually that amicable relationship soured and they took the case to court.

Judge John Tomasello awarded Dexter to Dare because he purchased the animal and paid the veterinary bills. “Dogs are chairs; they’re furniture; they’re automobiles, they’re pensions,” Tomasello said. “They’re not kids.”

Houseman appealed the ruling. In March, the appeals court ruled Tomasello “should not have treated Dexter like another piece of furniture” and should have considered the subjective value.

Tomasello ruled in August that Dexter was joint property because the couple lived together and cared for him together, but he has yet to decide who will keep the dog. He has asked for additional information from attorneys.