In Oregon, Washington County Circuit Judge D. Charles Bailey has ruled rejecting a bid from a dog rescue organization to take custody of an obese dachshund named Obie weighting 77 pounds. Oregon Dachshund Rescue Inc. wanted to take Obie away from foster owner Nora Vanatta, a former veterinary technician. A Washington couple gave up Obie when they could not control his eating which seems a bit strange since Obie cannot buy food or set it out himself.
Bailey focused on the question of ownership. There appeared to be a lack of documentation in the foster relationship of Vanetta, but the court declared it was “not convinced that at this point in time this dog is any more ODR’s than it is Ms. Vanatta’s.”
The basis for the lawsuit was ODR’s view that Vanatta was mistreating Obie, including agreeing to appear on The Today Show where he was flown across the country in the cargo hold — not the place most of us would put a grossly overweight animal. ODR objected that Vanatta was parading the dog from one publicity stunt to another both locally and nationally: “exploiting him for the sensationalistic promotional value of his unusual obesity, earning money off of his public exhibition on national and regional television shows, and refusing to either provide the necessary veterinary treatment for his actual adverse medical conditions related to obesity, or to expend the monies she was generating from her public display of him on his actual health and well-being.”
The ruling however will not be the end of the matter. The case will now go to mandatory non-binding arbitration. If either party is unhappy with the arbitrator’s decision, the case will go to a jury trial, which could take another three or four months.
The ruling is an interesting one since, in the case of a child and a foster parent, the result would likely be the opposite. It is unlikely under “the best interest of the child” that such media stunts would be viewed as proper or healthy (presumably however the child would not be transported in the hold of a plane). When considering an animal, the court appears more focused on ownership than such best interest determinations.
If the dog is owned by the human, few courts would intercede absent physical abuse or cruelty. Eating disorders are rarely viewed in such terms.
Should the “best interests of the pet” control in foster situations?
Source: ABA Journal