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A divorced man cannot have visitation rights to see his former dog Barney, because state law does not allow visitation rights to personal property, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled. “In seeking ‘shared custody’ and a ‘visitation’ arrangement, appellant appears to treat Barney, a dog, as a child,” Judge Frank J. Montemuro wrote. “Despite the status owners bestow on their pets, Pennsylvania law considers dogs to be personal property.” The court said allowing Anthony Desanctis to visit Barney would be creating an arrangement analogous to visiting a table or a lamp. The court’s decision in Desanctis v. Pritchard affirmed the ruling of the Chester County trial court. Desanctis and Lynda Pritchard were married in 1991 and divorced in October 2000. During their marriage they purchased Barney from the SPCA. As part of their divorce, they entered into an agreement “that purported to be a property settlement, but dealt primarily with Barney’s future.” The agreement, which was never incorporated into the divorce decree, provides that Pritchard would get full custody of Barney. The agreement also provided an arrangement allowing Desanctis to visit with Barney. However, Pritchard moved to Bucks County, Pa., in March 2000 and no longer allowed Desanctis to visit with Barney. Desanctis filed suit in May 2001, asking the trial court to grant shared custody of the dog. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and Desanctis appealed. In the appeal, Montemuro said the agreement between Pritchard and Desanctis explicitly awarded the property, Barney, to Pritchard. “Appellant … overlooks the fact that any terms set forth in the agreement are void to the extent that they attempt to award custodial visitation with or shared custody of personal property,” Montemuro wrote. “The result is clearly not contemplated by the statute.” “By the clear and unambiguous terms of the agreement, Barney and his social schedule belong exclusively to appellee.” President Judge Joseph A. Del Sole and Judge Debra M. Todd joined Montemuro in the unanimous decision. Yardley, Pa., attorneys Jennifer C. Etzrodt and John M. Larason represented Pritchard. West Chester, Pa., lawyer John S. Carnes represented Desanctis.

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