Tuesday, March 10, 2009
During the course of their 13 year relationship, a couple purchased a pedigree dog for $1,500. They were both registered as owners of the pet with the kennel club. When the relationship ended and effects were divided, the woman took (and clearly loved and cherished) the dog. Thereafter, she left the dog with him while she was on vacation. On return, he refused to let her have the dog back. She sued, seeking specific performance (i.e. return of the dog) as relief. The trial court found the woman a credible and sincere witness but held that specific performance did not apply to pets. The trial court ordered him to pay her $1,500 in damages.
On appeal, the New Jersey Appellate Division remanded, concluding that the trial court had the authority to order the return of the dog. An amicus brief was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Lawyers in Defense of Animals urged the court to "adopt a rule that requires consideration of the best interests of the dog." (Mike Frisch)