$20,000 Dog Fight

 |  Sep 23rd 2009  |   4 Contributions


20090922_inq_jdexter22z-aThis isn't your usual dog fight, it's a couple who battled it out in court for the custody of their pup. Eric Dare and Doreen Houseman both thought they deserved custody of Dexter the pug, so they ended up in front of a judge (twice) to determine the outcome.

Dare thought he deserved Dexter because he was the one who bought him, while Houseman felt since she took care of him when he was sick and dressed him for holidays she should get custody. They both proclaimed their love for Dexter.

In 2007 the case was heard in court for the first time in front of Judge Tomasello, at that time Dexter was awarded to Dare. According to the judge it came down to simple possession, Dexter is considered an object, property. Houseman was not alright with that and has spent at least $20,000 since then fighting to get Dexter back.

Dissatisfied with the outcome Houseman's lawyer got the case to go before a three-judge appeals panel for review of the decision.

Here are details of the appeals case from the Philly.com News.

"Dogs are chairs. They're furniture," Tomasello said, explaining that they are just one of many objects to be divided in a breakup.

But Houseman wanted Dexter, not cold cash. Her lawyer, Gina Colagero, took the case to a three-judge appeals panel that concluded Tomasello had failed to consider Dexter's "subjective value."

The panel said that he was like a family heirloom, or a piece of fine art, and that the judge should retry the matter, giving weight to what Dexter meant to Houseman and Dare.

Colagero said the Dexter decision might guide other courts wrestling with what to do about a pet when there's a breakup. "It's a landmark decision," she said.

As you can see, the ruling was in Houseman's favor and back to court they went. Once again appearing before the not so dog loving Judge Tomasello. He was none to happy to be wasting more court time battling over a dog, especially this one. However, this time he ordered joint custody of the dog, carried out in five-week rotations until Dexter goes to "the great kennel in the sky." Warning to dog owners, you are not going to care for his attitude.

"He might be cute and furry, but he's still property. He's no more than that," the judge said.

Tomasello also said that when the dog died, he hoped Dare and Houseman would amicably split the ashes and not bring the matter back to court.

"Hopefully I won't be here at that point," the judge said, just before he quickly left the bench, robe flying.

I hope he's not there either. I've got to say, I'm not really liking this man's attitude. I realize under the law dogs are considered property, but to dog lovers they are so much more. They are a part of the family.

Until laws get changed to reflect the 'subjective value' nothing will change, but this decision is definitely a step in the right direction. Judges, like Tomasello, who are in positions of power most certainly don't help our cause.

Remember, as voters we have the ability to determine which elected officials are in office. When the time comes, get out there and vote!

* Photo courtesy RON CORTES / Staff Photographer

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