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A Dog Law trifecta

Paul Fletcher//February 24, 2011

A Dog Law trifecta

Paul Fletcher//February 24, 2011

Maybe we need to update last August’s feature on “Dog Law: A Legal Salute to Man’s Best Friend.” That piece examined what happens when Bowser shows up in case law, statutes and lawsuits.

This past week, we hit a Dog Law trifecta, with three different items making the news.

Domesticated Animal Relations

The case of Whitmore v. Whitmore (VLW 011-7-068) may be the closest the Virginia Court of Appeals ever has come to a dog custody case. In an unpublished opinion, the court wrote that husband appealed the court’s award of the family dog, a Welsh Corgi, to the wife. The court had awarded the man $750, the cost of the dog.

The guy filed 13 different assignments of error and was turned down on every one.

The court’s opinion could easily substitute the word “children” for “dog” in the way it refers to the animal. The parties discussed with whom the dog would live. Both parties “contributed to the care, training and maintenance of the dog.” The wife paid the dog’s $4,000 doctor bill and visited it in the hospital when it was sick and laid up for five days; the husband didn’t visit. The wife engages doggy day care when she travels, hiring a service to walk and care for the pooch.

And the husband actually argued the court failed “to consider the best interests of dog” in its decision.

The trial court noted the evidence showed the wife provided “a stable and caring environment.” The appeals court said there was no reason to overturn the decision to give her the dog and the husband money to go buy a new pet.

Homeowners’ association antics

The Hillbrook-Tall Oaks Civic Association, which serves a neighborhood in Annandale, elected a political newcomer as its association president recently…a shaggy white dog named “Ms. Beatha Lee.”

Perhaps residents were confused by the name, which could be human, but the truth is, no one else stepped forward to claim the job, according to the Washington Post.

The pooch belongs to Mark Crawford, who served three terms as president and couldn’t run again, according to the by-laws. He is now vice-president, serving under his pet.

The by-laws require the president to be a resident (she’s OK there) but they don’t actually state that the leader must be a human. Others in the neighborhood apparently are reassessing their willingness to get involved for the next time elections are held.

As for Ms. Beatha, the Post reporter asked how she was going to fulfill the presidential duties such as running meetings and co-signing checks. “Well,” Crawford said, “she delegates a lot.”

Here’s the scoop

The Virginian-Pilot’s headline Wednesday wasn’t elegant, but it got right to the point: “Dog poop slip-and-injure case against PetSmart settled.”

A man from Poquoson visited a PetSmart store where, apparently, a pet hadn’t been smart. A dog had done its business in an aisle, the guy stepped in it and slipped. He fell hard against his companion, his daughter, and hurt himself. “The dog feces in question was not open and obvious,” he told The Pilot. Good coaching there, whoever his lawyer was.

He had to have back surgery and sought a million bucks from PetSmart, which settled the federal lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

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