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Tennessee Decision in Dog Custody Battle

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  • Tennessee Decision in Dog Custody Battle

    Suzan Blacksmith, with dog Sir, was stunned to learn that court battle may not be over.

    A dog in the middle of a bitter custody battle between two Nashville women should be with his original owner, not the one who found him after he slipped away from his home and got lost, a Davidson County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday.

    But the dogfight that has already moved through two courts might not be over.

    Dusty Denney, a 24-year-old dog groomer who found the Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix and was forced to surrender him, is vowing to appeal — again.

    "I'm just devastated," she said of the ruling that kept her from recovering the beloved dog she came to know as Tater. "I feel like the legal system has failed me."

    Suzan Blacksmith, who had the dog for 2½ years before a worker let him and another pet out of her West Nashville house in October 2005, was initially elated at Circuit Court Judge Amanda McClendon's decision Tuesday that let her keep the beloved pet she calls Sir.

    But she was stunned by news that the court battle might continue.

    "I don't understand," said Blacksmith, 60. "All I can say is two judges ruled Sir to be mine, and who is she to dispute two judges." Blacksmith then hung up the phone.

    Both women have said they feel as if the dog is their child.

    Blacksmith said she searched frantically for her two dogs after the workman let them out and posted a reward for $1,000 when the smaller one didn't come back.

    Denney took the animal in when she found him wandering around her apartment complex on Cabot Drive about two miles away.

    She said he was in bad shape and she couldn't find the owner.

    Denney had the dog about six months when Blacksmith's grandson spotted him at the Bellevue grooming business where Denney works.

    Two months later, now-retired Metro General Sessions Judge John Brown ruled that Blacksmith was the rightful owner and ordered Denney to give the dog back. Denny appealed the case to Circuit Court.

    Under Tennessee law, pets are considered personal property.
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