BFF: When Custody Actions Involve Dogs

In New York and across the United States, pets are often beloved family members. As man's (and woman's) best friend, a pet holds a special place in the heart of its owners — and on court dockets when its owners split up. Such is the case of Joey, the miniature dachshund. 

In a case before the Supreme Court, New York County Justice Matthew F. Cooper gave an eloquent statement about the movement of animals from the position of beloved pets to something more than possessions. 

The story of Joey goes like this: 

  • Shannon Travis and Trisha Murray lived together in a Manhattan apartment prior to marriage. Married in October 2012, they continued to live in the same apartment. 
  • Prior to the marriage, Ms. Travis purchased Joey as a 10-month-old puppy from a pet store and brought him home. 
  • In June 2013, Ms. Murray moved out of the apartment while Ms. Travis was away on business. Ms. Murray took Joey with her. When Ms. Travis asked after Joey, Ms. Murray told Ms. Travis that Joey had been lost in Central Park. In fact, Ms. Murray had taken Joey to her mother's home in Freeport Maine. 
  • After filing for divorce in July 2013, Ms. Travis brought a motion for a ruling that Joey be returned to her care and she be granted sole residential custody of the dog. 
  • Ms. Travis claims Ms. Murray stole Joey, while Ms. Murray claims Ms. Travis gave the dog to her. Each party claims to represent the best interest of the animal. 

Justice Cooper granted the couple an upcoming hearing on the matter. In his well-considered ruling, he notes that the matter of pet custody falls short of requiring the "best interest" standards used when determining child custody. Instead, the court must consider the best interest of all concerned. 

When you have questions about property or pets during divorce in Nassau County, talk to us at Bryan L. Salamone and Associates, P.C. 

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