The Minnesota Supreme Court has affirmed a state Appeals Court ruling that a woman who left her dog in the care of her ex-boyfriend did not abandon her furry friend.
The ruling, issued Wednesday, returns the poodle and beagle mix, named Oliver, to Dannielle Zephier.
Zephier bought the dog from a breeder in 2008 and moved to California for school in 2013. Dogs were not allowed in her housing there. While in Minnesota, she had dated Derrick Agate Jr., and the two remained friendly when their two-year relationship ended. He agreed to take care of Oliver while she was away.
Zephier paid for veterinary bills, visited Oliver and communicated with Agate about him. But when she returned to Minnesota and sought to take Oliver back in 2017, Agate and his new girlfriend, Lee Ann Krueger, refused to give up the dog, arguing that they had been caring for him for years and were bonded with him.
Zephier went to conciliation court, where she was awarded money but not Oliver, and then lost a bid to reclaim the dog in Hennepin County District Court.
From there, the case went to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled that Agate should have given Zephier formal notice that he wanted to claim Oliver as abandoned property.
The state Supreme Court overturned that portion of the ruling, but affirmed that Zephier did not abandon Oliver in the first place — returning the dog to her.
"She and Agate had a verbal agreement that he would care for Oliver while she could not," according to the ruling. "Nothing in the record suggests that she would no longer care for him or that she had renounced her ownership of him."
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.