A rift between two former neighbors has resulted in them sharing custody of a Labrador retriever mix.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Tina Marie Walker and David Somerville lived next to each other in a Florida apartment complex when he drove her in 2016 to an animal shelter, where she adopted Elario.
When Walker, 53, worked, Somerville would take the dog for walks and to the dog park. He says he paid the dog’s vet bills.
Then a rift began to grow between the two neighbors. Somerville, a Vietnam verteran underwent lung surgery months before the shelter visit.
Tina Marie Walker, 53, is being forced to share custody of her four-year-old Labrador mix named Elario with her former neighbor after he said he had been the canine’s primary caretaker
Walker’s neighbor, David Somerville, 68, would sometimes help her take care of him In November 2017, Somerville told Walker (pictured) that he wanted to adopt the canine After Walker refused, Somerville sued her for sole ownership in December
Walker told the Tampa Bay Times that Somerville’s son asked her if she could check in on his father. So Walker helped take care of him and even started taking Elario to visit him.
She said in November 2017, after he dogsat for her, Somerville approached her about wanting to adopt the dog and she decided to compromise by offering to add his name to Elario’s microchip.
‘I don’t understand it because in the state of Florida, a dog is property,’ Walker told FOX 13. ‘He’s licensed to me. I paid for the dog.’
Somerville told the court thar he had been the dog’s sole beneficiary and had paid for the dog’s food, vet bills, and toys.
He said he walked Elario as many as three times a day and took him to the dog park in the evenings
He claims he wanted his name printed on Elario’s microchip because he is more ‘financially stable’ than Walker – and that is when she started to keep the dog from him.
‘He does not get to see his dog friends at the park anymore,’ Somerville wrote. ‘He does not understand why when he sees me, he can’t come to me.’
Pinella County Small Claims Court Judge Lorraine Kelly ruled on March 8 that the former neighbors would have to split custody of the dog.
‘Both parties have health considerations that quality time with Elario makes better. Both parties have spent a great deal of time with the dog and witnesses say he shows great affection for both of his humans,’ she said.
Currently, Elario stays with Somerville every other weekend from Friday to Tuesday and the rest of the time with Walker. Walker said she is planning to appeal the judge’s ruling.