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Titlesort descending Citation Alternate Citation Summary Type
AKERS v. SELLERS 54 N.E.2d 779 (Ind.App.1944) 114 Ind.App. 660 (1944)
This Indiana case involves an action in replevin by John W. Akers against his former wife, Stella Sellers. The controversy at issue was ownership and possession of a Boston bull terrier dog. At the time of the divorce decree, the dog was not part of the property division and was instead left at the marriage domicile in custody of the former wife. Appellant-Akers claimed that legal title and the dog's best interests rested with him and unsuccessfully brought a suit in replevin in the lower court. On appeal, this Court held that there was no sufficient evidence to overturn the lower court's determination. The judgment was affirmed.
Case
Arrington v. Arrington 613 S.W.2d 565 (Tex. Civ. App. 1981)

A divorcing couple agreed to visitation of their dog, which the trial court incorporated into the divorce decree, appointing wife as the dog's managing conservator.  Husband appealed because he had not been appointed managing conservator; the appellate court stated that dogs are personal property, and the office of managing conservator had been created for human children.  While the court held that dogs are personal property under the law, it also stated that visitation of dogs should be allowed.

Case
Ballas v Ballas 3 Cal.Rptr. 11 (Cal. Dist. Ct. App. 1960) 178 Cal.App.2d 570

In a divorce decree, lower court awarded dog and car to husband; the wife appealed.  Appellate court found that distinction between community and separate property was unimportant and held that wife was entitled to the dog, but the husband remained entitled to the car.

Case
Bennett v. Bennett 655 So.2d 109 (Fla.App. 1 Dist.,1995) 20 Fla. L. Weekly D225 (Fla.App. 1 Dist.,1995)

In this Florida case, the husband, Ronald Bennett, appealed a final judgment of dissolution of marriage awarding custody of the parties' dog. Specifically, the husband challenged the trial court's awarding the former wife visitation with the dog. The appellate court held that the trial court lacked the authority to order visitation with personal property (in this case, a dog). The court recognized that the lower court was trying to reach a fair solution, but the order was reversed and remanded remanded so that the trial court could award the animal pursuant to the dictates of the equitable distribution statute.

Case
Desanctis v. Pritchard 803 A.2d 230 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2002) The trial court dismissed a couple's complaint asking the court to enforce a settlement agreement which provided for shared custody of the couple's dog.  The appellate court upheld that decision, holding that the settlement agreement was void to the extent that it attempted to award visitation or shared custody with personal property. Case
Finn v. Anderson --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2019 WL 1984091 (N.Y. City Ct. Apr. 30, 2019) This replevin action concerns ownership of an "indoor/outdoor" cat named "Sylvester" or "Marshmallow," depending on perspective. In September 2018, plaintiffs found an unidentified, thin, white cat hanging around their house looking for food. After several months of feeding the cat, in January 2019, plaintiffs decided to bring the cat inside and take it to a vet, where he was de-wormed, vaccinated, treated for fleas, microchipped, and dubbed "Sylvester." A few weeks later, Sylvester accidentally got out of plaintiff's house where plaintiff found out from a neighbor that the cat was taken back by the Defendant, who claimed that Sylvester is actually "Marshmallow" and had been plaintiff's indoor/outdoor cat since 2009. Plaintiff then filed a replevin action against defendant to recover legal possession of Sylvester, aka Marshmallow. The City Court, New York, Jamestown, Chautauqua County first noted that, regardless of how people feel about their dogs and cats, New York law treats them as personal property and even "chattel." While the court observed that the trend has been the "de-chattelization" of household pets in New York, it has not gone so far as to adopt a "best interests" standard to replace the superior possessory rights standard. The court noted that there is inherent difficulty in applying a best interests standard with pets because there is no practical way of gauging a pet's feelings and assessing its interests. The court further stated that New York Courts have developed a “quasi-interests based standard” for pets that considers highly subjective factors. Significantly, the court declared the following: "[w]hile it appears the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has not addressed the issue, this Court concludes that it is time to declare that a pet should no longer be considered “personal property” like a table or car." Thus, using a "best for all concerned" articulated in Raymond v. Lachmann in 1999, this court weighed the factors whether to place Sylvester/Marshmallow with plaintiff or defendant based on the care provided by both parties. The court found, in a very close decision, that the “best interests of all concerned” test leaves the custody of the cat, Sylvester/Marshmallow, with the defendant. While the court was convinced that plaintiffs were genuinely concerned for Sylvester's/Marshmallow's welfare and spent time and money on his care, it appears that Sylvester/Marshmallow may have “voted with his feet” to return to his home of ten years with the defendant and her children. The Court found in favor of the defendant, and plaintiff's claim was dismissed. Case
Fitch v. Eiseman 2000 WL 34545801 (Alaska 2000) (unpublished opinion) The trial court approved a divorcing couple’s agreement for dogs to be with their children (and so travel to the husband's and wife’s houses as part of a shared custody agreement of their children).  The wife did not abide by the agreement, so the Supreme Court remanded back to the trial court to determine sole ownership of the dog. Case
Giarrusso v. Giarrusso --- A.3d ----, 2019 WL 1606351 (R.I. Apr. 16, 2019) This Rhode Island Supreme Court case centers on a disagreement among former spouses concerning the ex-husband's visitation with their two dogs acquired during marriage. Before the Court is an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After review, the Court concluded that cause was not shown and affirmed the order of the Family Court. The couple entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) formalizing the terms of the dissolution of Diane and Paul Giarrusso's marriage and giving Diane all title and interest to the dogs and Paul twice a week visitation. The weekly visitation proceeded according to the agreement for over a year, when Diane ceased allowing Paul's visits. Paul then filed a motion for post-final judgment relief citing breach of the agreement and Diane counterclaimed. A justice of the Family Court held a hearing on the issue, where each party testified and submitted associated texts and emails. In one recounted incident, a dog was missing for some time at Paul's house. Ultimately, the dog was found to be accidentally locked in a closet. At the conclusion of the hearing, Diane argued that the justice should withdraw approval for the MSA because Paul failed to care for the dogs and showed bad faith, while Paul argued that Diane had breached the terms. The hearing justice affirmed the visitation schedule of the MSA, denied Diane's requested relief, and awarded attorney fees to Paul. On appeal here, Diane argues that the hearing justice was "clearly wrong and overlooked material evidence when she found that Paul had acted in good faith." In particular, Diane contends that the dogs are chattel and Paul failed to provide safe conditions and return them to her in an undamaged condition. The Supreme Court held, in noting that the MSA retains the characteristics of a contract, that it would not overturn the hearing justice's determination in absence of mutual mistake in the contract (the MSA). There was no mutual mistake in the MSA's visitation provision and no basis for the hearing justice to conclude that the MSA needs to be reformed. Further, this court found no evidence of bad faith on Paul's part and that the hearing justice's findings were support by the evidence. Thus, it was not inequitable to enforce the visitation term in the MSA as written. The order of the Family Court was affirmed and the matter returned to Family Court. Case
Grey v. Johansson Slip Copy (unpublished decision), 2016 WL 1613804 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 22, 2016) This suit was filed after Grey and Johansson entered into a disagreement about who was the rightful owner of Johansson’s late wife’s horse, Navy. Grey was Johansson’s lawyer and was left responsible for caring for and handling all sales regarding her horses after her death. Grey filed suit for fraud and defamation against Johansson after he publicly referred to Grey as a “horse stealer.” Ultimately, the court held that Grey did not produce enough to evidence to establish a case for either fraud or defamation against Johanasson. Although Johanasson did call Grey a “horse stealer,” the court found that this comment was protected by judicial privilege. Case
Hament v. Baker 2014 VT 39, 97 A.3d 461 (Vt. 2014) 2014 VT 39 The custody of an eleven year old German wirehaired pointer was the central issue in this Vermont divorce case. While both parties testified to their strong emotional ties to the dog and to the care that each spouse provided, the Superior Court awarded custody to the husband. The wife appealed the Superior Court’s decision arguing that the court erred in refusing a joint arrangement, that the court’s finding was not supported by the evidence, and that this finding provided an arbitrary basis for award. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Vermont held that the family court division could consider factors not set out in 15 V.S.A. § 751(b); specifically, the welfare of the animal and the emotional connection between the animal and each spouse. The court found that both parties were afforded an opportunity to put on evidence regarding both factors without restriction in the Superior Court. The Supreme Court of Vermont also held that the Superior Court was correct in its statement that the family division could not enforce a visitation or shared custody order for companion animals. Unlike child custody matters, the court said, there is no legislative authority for the court to play a continuing role in the supervision of the parties with respect to the care and sharing of a companion animal. The Superior Court’s decision of awarding custody to the husband was therefore affirmed. Case

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