April 15 (UPI) — A Florida court ruled that two former neighbors must split custody of a dog after a dispute about who’s the dog’s rightful owner.
Pinellas County Judge Lorraine Kelly recently said Tina Marie Walker, 53, and David Somerville, 68, each have a right to Elario, a 4-year-old, 100-pound Labrador and must abide by a visitation calendar to share custody.
“Both parties have spent a great deal of time with the dog,” Kelly wrote in her ruling, the Tampa Bay Times reported. “Witnesses say he shows great affection to both of his humans.”
The fight over Elario began more than two years ago when Walker adopted the dog from a shelter in Largo, Fla. Around that time, Somerville’s son asked Walker to check in on his father, who was recovering from lung surgery. The two neighbors began spending a lot of time together and Walker would being Elario.
Somerville grew fond of Elario and after dogsitting for Walker when she went on vacation, asked Walker if he could adopt the dog. After Walker refused, Somerville sued her in small claims court.
In court documents, Somerville said he has a right to be Elario’s owner because he has spent a great deal of time with the dog, paid for veterinarian bills and is more “financially stable” than Walker.
“Elario and I have a very strong bond/love for each other,” Somerville wrote in court documents. “He has been with me 24/7 for the last year and a half…I believe that Elario is my dog and should stay with me.”
Walker said she plans to appeal the joint custody ruling.
“I love my dog,” she said. “It’s all I have in my whole life.”