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SPRINGFIELD — A court said "Jake" the dog should stay with his owner’s family, not the Humane Society.

The 4th District Appellate Court in Springfield sided with the family of Tyler Harris, a Bloomington man who died in a traffic accident in 2004, in a dispute over who had a right to custody of his dog.

The Feb. 3 ruling affirmed a McLean County judge’s decision in giving "Jake," a 6-year-old black Labrador mix, to Harris’ estate and rejecting claims for the animal by his girlfriend, Becky McGrew, and the local Humane Society.

Harris, 28, died in a traffic accident in August 2004.

The Humane Society argued Harris adopted the dog from their shelter under the condition he was able to care for it.

And McGrew, who lived with Harris and "Jake" before Harris’ death, argued in court documents the family abandoned or gave to her the dog because it remained in her possession in a seven-month period following her boyfriend’s death.

But the court agreed with attorneys for Harris’ estate n of which Harris’ father, Stephen, was administrator n in that the purpose of the contract with the Humane Society was adoption, not care of the dog.

The contract transferred the title of the dog to Harris, and there was no indication he did not live up to conditions of the contract during his lifetime.

"Most important, the adoption contract did not include any provision stating that title of the dog returned to the Humane Society if Tyler died before the dog," the court ruling says.

"Jake" was Harris’ personal property, the court ruled, Stephen Harris gained legal title of the pet when his son died.

The court also ruled there was no indication Harris’ estate intended to abandon or give away the dog.

Stephen Harris and attorneys for McGrew and the Humane Society did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The estate’s attorney, Ralph Turner, was not available for comment, a woman at his law office said.


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