Home » The Scoop

Custody Goes To The Dogs

I was watching a segment on the Today Show about a rather new phenomenon, courtroom custody battles over the family dog. At Dogster we know...

Horst Hoefinger  |  Sep 24th 2008


I was watching a segment on the Today Show about a rather new phenomenon, courtroom custody battles over the family dog.

At Dogster we know when a dog is adopted they become a member of the family, an attachment is formed, something not easily broken up even when the family is.

TODAY entertainment correspondent Jill Rappaport, a major animal lover herself, reported Thursday on the latest issue that’s being thrown before judges trying to sort out who gets what when relationships fail. In addition to a pre-nup agreement, Rappaport suggested to co-anchor Meredith Vieira, couples with pets should consider a pre-pup agreement as well.

The problem is, courts still think of pets as chattel, a piece of property assigned to one litigant and not as a living breathing being. As in the case of Doreen Houseman and her ex-fiance who were fighting over their pug, Dexter. Originally after the break-up Dexter was allowed to stay with Doreen, but that changed after her ex found out she was dating another man.

She received a call from her ex threatening she would never see Dexter again. The thought of giving up her best friend was devastating so she went to court in an attempt to keep him.

Since it was originally the fiance who purchased the dog he was sent back to him.

“The judge said he did not want to know about the emotional attachment,” explained Houseman’s attorney, Gina Calogero. “He didn’t want to consider it, because to him, the dog was no different from a chair or a couch. They’re not people. They’re not children.”

Judges do have some discretion, so your case outcome is really dependent upon if you go before a sympathetic or unsympathetic judge. As was the case in Haskoor vs. Haskoor.

Fortunately for Mark Haskoor, not all judges are as coldhearted. When he broke up with his wife, he was devastated when she told him she was keeping their dog, Bobesh.

“We got Bobesh when we were together, and then when we separated, she had taken him with her,” Haskoor said. “When I asked to start seeing Bobesh again, the answer was no.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks. He’s my best friend. He’s part of my family. I’m not willing to let that go.”

Like Houseman, Haskoor took his case to court. But unlike Houseman, he found a sympathetic judge who worked out a joint custody agreement for Bobesh, treating the pet as if it were a child.

Houseman’s attorney, McDonough, went on to say, “There has been an explosion in the court systems of people who want to litigate time sharing and legal ownership of family pets.”

So, what do you think about fighting over Fido? Since we view our dogs emotionally and affectionately, like children, should the laws be changed to reflect this? Give me a bark.