Monday, December 06, 2004


Lawsuits Over Pets Gain Popularity

With his sad brown eyes and soft, floppy ears, Marley, a 2-year-old Boxer, is the kind of dog that's hard to resist. Just ask his co-owner Ashley Wilson, a music director at a Seattle rock station. After splitting up with her live-in boyfriend, Todd Templeton, just before Christmas last year, Wilson and Templeton exchanged Marley informally every week. Then, last August, according to a lawsuit filed by Wilson, Templeton abruptly ended the arrangement and kept Marley.

Instead of giving up or just getting a new dog, Wilson joined the growing ranks of animal lovers who are filing lawsuits over their pets. After consulting Adam Karp, a lawyer in Bellingham, Wash., who says he has handled about 100 animal-related cases in the past four years, Wilson filed suit in late October. She has already won at least a temporary victory. Last month a superior court judge ordered the exchanges to resume immediately, pending a final ruling. (Templeton declined to comment on the case.) About seeing Marley for the first time in three months, Wilson says, "His tail was wiggling out of control. I just hugged him and started to cry."

I'll be the first to admit I'm biased here, since I'm not exactly a pet person. Should we treat animals as humanely as possible? Of course? But I kind of draw the line at lawsuits.

It's like the rest of the country is going as koo koo as Manhattan with its famous Animal Medical Center, where people's pets can get treated for teeth grinding, and cataracts, among other things. In fact, a few years ago, New York Magazine did a feature on this place. One thing I remember about the article was a woman with a pet rodent who wanted surgery for the animal's overbite. During its surgery, the animal had a bad reaction to the anasthesia. The vet, who was allergic to rodents had to give the animal mouth to mouth. But still it was not enough -- the rodent died. When the doctor broke the news to the woman, she asked to be left alone with the rodent for a few minutes, ostensibly to mourn its death.

As I'm typing now, I'm reminded of some people in my building with large dogs who don't bother to put them on a leash when leaving their apartments. They just don't take into account that not everyone will want to be slobered on by their beloved dogs in the elevator. Its as if the fanatical love of their pets trumps common courtesy to other human beings. Oh well.


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