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Spouses who split can bid on pooch

We tracked recent developments in canine case law in our “dog days” special in August.

Here’s a new divorce case out of Roanoke in which Judge Robert P. Doherty Jr. made a solomonic decision to let a divorcing couple bid to buy their beloved dog, “Gracie.” Gracie is a cocker spaniel, according to Roanoke lawyer Sharon Chickering, who represents the wife.

The couple, in their 50s, had no children, and they devoted a “lot of time and affection to their dog,” Doherty said in Bowles v. Bowles. They put on a “great deal” of evidence to show just how much each cared. Two vets testified about the animal’s health and how each party cared for it.

The wife’s mother cared for the dog while the wife worked, and the mom testified about how the dog behaved around the wife. Both husband and wife testified about their interaction with the dog. The husband claimed he bought the dog, but the wife said it was a gift to her, and she was the primary caretaker. The husband said it was a family pet that belonged to both of them.

Doherty awarded custody of the dog to the wife, with visitation by the husband.

He said the animal was owned jointly by the parties and could not be divided.

But Doherty said in his Dec. 21 opinion that if either party wanted to purchase the other’s interest in the dog they could use a bidding process arranged by their lawyers. If the lawyers could not work it out, the judge said he would schedule a hearing to take bids in the courtroom and give the dog to the highest bidder.

Chickering said the parties have yet to reach a resolution.
By Deborah Elkins


  1. This is indeed a novel way of settling the dispute over the family pooch. The only problem I see is that one may have a significantly higher income so can afford to express their “love” for the puppy.

  2. How silly. The expense of a trial AND a bidding war. Another argument for Collaborative Divorce and mediation in Virginia!

  3. A sad story but not as bad as the caselaw cited in “Who Gets Fluffy,” a Virginia CLE, which discussed the case in which the wife received the husband’s dog in the divorce and immediately had him euthanized!

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