Dogs Who Went to Court and Won


Although animal welfare regulations have existed in North America as early as the 17th century, enforcement of these laws remains erratic at best. Today, a lot of canines in the United States still get the raw end of the deal, finding themselves neglected, abandoned or subjected to various forms of legal abuse, such as having their ears cropped. Some canines have been involved in legal battles, fighting for their rights and the rights of their owners in court, instead of tucking their tails between their legs. Some of them even managed to seize victory against great odds. Below are the stories of four dogs who fought in the courts― and won!


Reurich and Boofhead. Image via Facebook.

On August 17, 2018, the Australian court ordered a Returned and Services League (RSL) club in New South Wales to pay around $16,000 in damages to Peter George Reurich and his assistance dog, a bearded collie named Boofhead, for denying the pair entry to their club. The club reportedly refused the 11-year-old canine entry multiple times between 2014 and 2015 on the grounds of his appearance and smell, telling Reurich that Boofhead did not meet their basic health and hygiene standards. There was also an incident where the driver of the RSL courtesy bus remarked rudely about Boofhead’s odor. Ultimately, Judge Brigitte Markovic found the RSL’s argument unlawful and discriminatory, stating that the collie helps Reurich (who reports suffering from anxiety and depression) cope with everyday life and should be allowed to accompany Reurich wherever he goes.


Ehlena Fry and Wonder. Family photo, courtesy of ACLU.

Born with cerebral palsy, Ehlena Fry experienced many severe mobility impairments, prompting her parents to have a service dog, a goldendoodle named Wonder, assist her in everyday life once she started kindergarten. However, her school initially would not allow the dog in school, and although they later reconsidered, they placed so many restrictions on Wonder that Ehlena’s parents decided to homeschool her instead. After years of legal battles between the Frys and school officials, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 13-year-old Ehlena Fry in 2017, finally granting her the right to have Wonder with her on campus.


Sky, a 5-year-old pitbull, was placed on death row in the United Kingdom for being classified as an illegal breed with no potential adopters, despite being legally registered and not showing even a hint of aggressive behavior. Thankfully, many people launched campaigns against euthanizing Sky, with some groups attempting to raise as much as £12,000 to have her rehomed. Many supporters signed petitions for her release from police custody, where she had been for over a year. On January 22, 2018, the campaigners managed to convince the U.K. courts to overturn Sky’s execution.


Izzy, who now goes by Indie. Image courtesy of RSPCA Queensland.

Like Sky, Izzy the Staffordshire bull terrier was also placed on death row, except in her case she was actually guilty of doing something wrong, as she had attacked a woman and left her with a 1.5-centimeter laceration on her finger. Izzy’s owner, Tania Isbester, fought for her pet’s life in Australia’s Victorian Court of Appeal and lost. Ibester believed that Izzy wasn’t getting a fair hearing, and accused one of the council’s panel members of being biased, so she later took the case to Australia’s highest courts. This resulted in a historic ruling that left the Melbourne council facing legal bills costing up to $600,000, and the High Court ruling in favor of Isbester’s appeal. A couple of years later, Izzy had her name changed to Indie, and was in RSPCA custody and looking for a new forever home. 

Share Your Story

The four dogs above show how far we’ve come in making sure some laws guarantee their rights and safety. But how about you? Do you have a story of your own about dogs who fought legal battles and won? Share them with us in the comments section below!

Featured image: A dog looks out from the safety of a human lap. Image source

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