As a follow up to my first blog about pet custody/ownership, I wanted to discuss a recent case from the Bronx Civil Court, Ramseur v. Askins, 44 Misc.3d (Civil Court Bronx, 2014), an action for replevin of a shih tzu named Deva. The court’s decision mimics the general standard for pet custody cases in New York: the best interest for all concerned standard. Courts recognize that pets are not mere chattel and are unique.
The facts of this case are as follows. In the summer of 2012, the Plaintiff (who lived with his mother) bought a dog for his granddaughter. The Defendant is the Plaintiff’s aunt (his mother’s sister). The Defendant’s son (Plaintiff’s cousin) would walk Deva for the Plaintiff three times a day. When the cousin got a job he could not continue to walk Deva. Around that same time, the Plaintiff moved out of his mother’s house and moved in with his uncle, leaving the dog with his mother. One day the Plaintiff’s mother asked the Defendant to give the dog a bath and dropped Deva off at the Defendant’s house. Plaintiff’s mother never came back to retrieve the dog.
In March 2014 (almost two years later), the Plaintiff and his mother asked the Defendant to return dog because the Plaintiff wanted to bread her. The Defendant refused and the Plaintiff commenced an action for replevin. The court analyzed each party’s relationship with Deva using the best interest of everyone standard.
In assessing the Plaintiff’s relationship with Deva, it considered the facts that: (1) when Deva first began living with the Defendant, the Plaintiff and his mother brought dog food, but not enough; (2) the Plaintiff would occasionally visit the dog (and only groomed her once); (3) the Plaintiff rarely sees the dog (and his new wife’s son has never even met the dog). These facts did not fair too well for the Plaintiff.
The Defendant, on the other hand, had quite a different relationship with Deva. The Defendant regularly purchases dog food, pays for grooming, and feeds and walks her daily. Everyone in the Defendant’s household has a close bond with the Deva and helps with these tasks. Deva and member of the Defendant’s household have a close bond. Additionally, the Defendant, who lost her hearing in one ear, has now come to depend on Deva to alert her when someone rings her intercom or knocks at her door. Lastly, Deva shows signs of anxiety in Defendant’s absence.
The facts of this case made it easy for the Court to determine that the action for replevin should be dismissed because the Plaintiff essentially showed no interest in the dog and the dog clearly had so much love, attention, and support from the Defendant and her family.
Cari is available to both mediate and litigate animal law disputes, including dog custody cases. Cari is a trained mediator and can help the parties reach an amicable resolution outside of the courthouse.