A dog -- and a whole lot of cash -- are caught in the middle of a messy breakup between a New York man and his ex-girlfriend, who now lives in California with the puggle named Knuckles. Craig Dershowitz, 34, has spent over $60,000 trying to win custody of Knuckles from Sarah Brega, claiming she "kidnapped" the pooch after their split.
Brega claims that Dershowitz gifted her Knuckles as a puppy, but he counters that they agreed she would only retain custody until he found a place to live following the split. Both hired lawyers and filed court papers back in February.
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Faced with the massive legal bill, Dershowitz is looking for financial help online via "Rescue Knux." The site offers a variety of compensation for donations, ranging from "a virtual smooch" from the dog, for $10, to a customized mural done by "legends of graffiti," for $10,000. The goal is to raise $20,000 by June 16.
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Responding to those who think Dershowitz (a tattoo artist and pro-Israeli activist) is crazy for shelling out more than most people's annual income on a dog, he said, "No, he is not a human being. But, he is a caring, loving being with a soul that I have grabbed and held. He does mean that much to me."
Are things out of hand?
Resolving these disputes in the context of divorce proceedings can lead to some extreme results. Some disputes over pet custody are fought with the same bitter determination -- and high legal fees -- as child custody cases. Veterinarians who specialize in animal psychology have been hired to testify as expert witnesses in order to persuade a judge that one or another spouse has the closer bond with the pet and should therefore be awarded custody. Adding the issue of pet ownership to the other emotionally charged issues of the typical divorce case is certain to make an already difficult, unpleasant, and expensive process even worse.
What should I do if...
The ALDF offers some practical advice for those who find themselves in a pet custody dispute. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Divorce litigation is unpleasant enough without fighting over a pet. Talk to your spouse and try to work out an amicable arrangement.
- If you have children who are attached to your pet, it may be best for the pet to go where the children go.
- If the pet belonged to you before the marriage, you are more likely to be awarded possession.
- It will work to your advantage if you can show the court that you have been the animal's principal caretaker and will have the time to properly care for it.
ABOVE ALL: Consult an animal law attorney in your state who can properly advise you. The general remarks above are not intended as a substitute for expert legal advice.Knuckles:
Photo credit: NY Post
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