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Aye Chihuahua! Dog’s domain remains Indiana, appeals court rules

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Sofie, the black-and-white Chihuahua-rat terrier mix, stays in Indiana, the Court of Appeals affirmed in a canine custody challenge.

Despite finding clear error, the panel rejected an appeal by a former Indiana resident who now lives in North Carolina and sought to use a protective order to claim custody of Sofie in Heather Herren v. Jerry Dishman, 18A04-1304-SC-162.

Jerry Dishman received Sofie from a former girlfriend, the record shows, before he and Heather Herren began an on-again, off-again relationship that included a period of incarceration for Dishman during which Herren cared for the animal.

Herren later moved to North Carolina and Dishman followed, but he soon returned to Muncie with Sofie. Herren claimed Dishman threatened her, and she obtained a protective order after he left that granted her “the care, custody, and control of any animal owned, possessed, kept, or held as a pet by either party."

Herren traveled to Indiana and presented the order to Muncie police, who went to Dishman’s home and retrieved Sofie, who returned to North Carolina with Herren. Dishman sued in small claims court and was granted an order of replevin returning Sofie, which the COA affirmed Tuesday.

On appeal, Herren argued that the court failed to extend full faith and credit to the North Carolina protective order and that it erred in denying her motion to dismiss. Judge Patricia Riley wrote that the court did err and demonstrated a manifest abuse of discretion by refusing to admit the protective order as evidence.

Despite those errors, though, the small claims court got the decision right, Riley wrote.

“Herren does not dispute the small claims court’s finding that Dishman never gave ownership of Sofie to Herren,” Riley wrote in a decision joined by Judges James Kirsch and Margret Robb. “We conclude that the small claims court clearly erred by failing to accord full faith and credit to the out-of-state Protective Order, but because Herren neither owned nor possessed Sofie at the time of the Protective Order’s issuance, Herren is not entitled to custody of the dog.”


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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