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. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  2. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.

  3. maybe if some of the socia workers would treat the foster parents better, they would continue to fostr.

  4. We have been asked to take in a 2 no old baby because mother is in very unstable situation. We want to do this but will need help with expenses such as medical and formula... Do we have to have custody thru court?

  5. Very troubling. A competent public defender is very much the right of every indigent person in the US or the Fifth amendment becomes meaningless. And considering more and more of us are becoming poorer and poorer under this "system," the need for this are greater than ever.... maybe they should study the Federals and see how they manage their program? And here's to thanking all the PD attorneys out there who do a good job.