• July 8, 2020
This is not Oliver or Alex. This is for illustrative purposes only. This is simply a dog.

The dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer, that is, days like today. What perfect timing for a post about a dog case.

When Ms. Danielle Zephier moved from Minnesota to California, she left Oliver, a rather old mutt (mixed poodle/beagle, 10 yrs. old) (along with fellow hound, Alex) with Ms. Zephier’s father.

After some time, though, Papa Zephier could no longer keep Oliver or Alex for undisclosed reason and Danielle asked Mr. Derrick Agate, Jr., whom she briefly dated, to take care of the dogs while Ms. Zephier was in California.

Long story short, Ms. Zephier got Alex back after some time but she left Oliver with Mr. Agate and Ms. LeeAnn Krueger, who appear to have grown quite attached to Oliver. So, when Ms. Zephier returned to Minnesota after a few years in California and asked for Mr. Agate and Ms. Krueger to return Oliver, they said no.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Susan Robiner presided over Oliver’s custody trial and found in favor of Mr. Agate and Ms. Krueger, deciding that Ms. Zephier had abandoned Oliver and lost her ownership rights to him. The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed, holding that common law abandonment was abrogated by Minn. Stat. § 345.75 (“Abandoned Tangible Personal Property”) and Mr. Agate and Ms. Krueger did not follow the procedure set out in the statute (specifically, the requirement of a 30-day notice before personal property can be deemed abandoned).

To our surprise, the Minnesota Supreme Court recently granted the petition for review in this case. Counsel for Ms. Zephier suggested that the Minnesota Supreme Court should undertake review of the case because “the issue of possession and ownership of pets is a recurring matter before the Minnesota appellate tribunals” (here at p. 6). We are skeptical that it is particularly common that people take pet ownership disputes through trial and appeal. On the other hand, the issue of when and to what extent a statute abrogates the common law may be an interesting question worth review?