PORTLAND, Ore. – A 70-pound dachshund at the center of a custody battle will stay put for now, but the litigation isn't over yet - not by a long shot.
Obie the obese dog captured national attention when his caretaker, Nora Vanatta, put him on a diet. But then Oregon Dachshund Rescue owner Jenell Rangan filed a lawsuit, claiming that Obie belongs to her.
“They say I’m exploiting him,” said Vanatta. “They say I’m misusing his funds and they claim he belongs to them.”
At a court hearing Monday morning, a judge decided that the dog will stay with Vanatta, at least for now. The judge said at this point it is unclear who owns Obie. Oregon Dachshund Rescue was asking that the dog be turned over to them until ownership is decided, but the judge declined.
Rangan didn't say much when we asked her how she felt about the judge's decision.
"Well, I don't have an answer for that - I really don't," she said. "We're going to take it a little bit farther."
So what does this mean in the long term?
The case will now go to full litigation - first to arbitration and then there could possibly be a trial. And that could all take months to work through.
"Ms. Rangan and ODR get two bites of this apple," said Geordie Duckler, who is representing Oregon Dachshund Rescue. "It didn't take. They get a whole second bite - same apple, same witnesses, same evidence. In fact, even more witnesses and evidence at a trial. We just have to wait six months to do it."
"We're just really happy about the outcome of the case," said James McCurdy, who represents Obie's caretaker. "Like the judge indicated in the courtroom, it's far from over and we understand that. We're just really ecstatic Obie can stay in the fantastic situation he's in."
The case is a complicated one. For one, neither side has a paper trail. Although there were some e-mails and Facebook posts that explain how the transaction between the two sides played out, there were not any formal contracts/agreements drawn up until it became clear that a legal battle was in the air.
So the question of who actually owns the dog will not be decided any time soon - not until it is all sorted out in court. Until then, the two sides will continue to argue their points.
"This is a dog that needed to have certain things done - see a specialist, see a cardiologist. Not just lose pounds, which any dog could do depending on how you feed it," said Duckler. "But actually be treated for an obese condition."
When we spoke to Vanatta earlier about the situation, she said she just wants what is best for Obie - and she believes she can give that to him.
"He's doing well here," she said. "It just doesn't make sense to take him away now."
The Back Story
Oregon Dachshund Rescue originally heard the dog was in need of a home and put out an online plea for help. Vanatta offered to help soon after and an Oregon Dachshund Rescue volunteer picked up Obie from his former owners’ home and delivered him to Vanatta.
Rangan said she believes Obie belongs to her and Vanatta is not providing good care.
Vanatta disagrees - she said Obie has lost 15 pounds since being in her care and she hopes he can shed another one or two pounds a week going forward.
Obie first appeared on our AM Northwest show earlier this month. Watch the video: