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  • Writer's pictureSummers Family Law

Dog Custody Case: A Paw-sitively Groundbreaking Decision

As a divorce attorney, I'm no stranger to the emotional turmoil that accompanies the end of a marriage. While custody battles over children are common, a recent case in Massachusetts has shed light on an unconventional aspect of divorce: the custody of beloved pets.

The Heart of the Matter

The case involved Brett Lyman and Sasha Lanser, former romantic partners who co-owned a Pomeranian named Teddy Bear. After their breakup, they initially shared custody of the pup amicably. However, tensions arose when Lanser cut off Lyman's access to Teddy Bear.

Lyman sued, asking the court to enforce their agreement to share possession of Teddy Bear equally. Specifically, he sought "specific performance," which is a legal remedy where a court orders someone to do what they promised under a contract. In this case, the trial court granted a "preliminary injunction," which is a temporary court order intended to preserve the status quo until the case is resolved. The order required the parties to share Teddy Bear in alternating two-week periods.

A Paw-Breaking Precedent

Lanser challenged the injunction, arguing that the court had no authority to order "shared custody" of a dog, which is considered personal property. However, the Appeals Court sided with Lyman, reversing the single justice's order that had vacated the preliminary injunction.

The court acknowledged that while pets are legally considered personal property, their unique nature and sentimental value to owners might warrant enforcing a sharing agreement. It reasoned that monetary damages might not adequately compensate for the loss of companionship and affection an owner has for their pet.

The Takeaway

This groundbreaking decision opens the door for pet owners in Massachusetts to seek shared custody arrangements in the event of a breakup or divorce. As the court noted, such arrangements may not be feasible in all cases, but they provide an option for those who view their pets as more than just property.

While the decision is a victory for pet lovers, it also serves as a reminder of the emotional complexities that can arise in divorce cases. As a divorce attorney, I understand the importance of navigating these sensitive issues with empathy and care.


The Lyman v. Lanser case has undoubtedly raised eyebrows and sparked discussions about the legal status of pets. As the law continues to evolve, one thing remains certain: the love and bond between humans and their furry companions knows no bounds.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and readers should not act upon any information provided without seeking professional legal counsel. The author does not guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.

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