Dogged battle under way for custody of Instagram-famous cavoodle Oscar

Judge deems Sydney pet too valuable for dispute to be heard in her courtroomA bitter custody battle for an Instagram-famous cavoodle is soon to be heard in the New South Wales supreme court. A judge has deemed Oscar, who boasts more than 10,000 followers online, too valuable to have his ownership determined by the state’s district court. Kenneth Flavell and Gina Edwards have brought two claims of defamation against Mark Gillespie and are suing him for custody of Oscar. The two parties appear to have had some shared custody of Oscar and his Instagram account until their relationship soured last year. Flavell and Edwards are not in possession of the pup.
The pair are seeking damages for an alleged breach of contract by Gillespie, want him restrained from removing Oscar from their care and want legal recognition that they are the dog’s “legal and beneficial owners”. They are also seeking an injunction to stop Gillespie from posting anything defamatory about them in the future. In turn, Gillespie is seeking control of Oscar’s Instagram account, which “may or may not still be online but which could still be an item of some value” and damages for the pair’s “detention” of the dog he claims is his.

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“In other words, both parties want the dog,” the NSW district court judge Judith Gibson said of the case, which was first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Although his social media accounts appear to have been suspended while court proceedings continue, Oscar – known to his fans as @itsoscardownunder – was quite the pup around town.

Oscar at his ‘Howl-o-ween’ party last yearOscar at his ‘Howl-o-ween’ party last year. Photograph: Woof Gateaux/Facebook
Social media posts show him visiting various restaurants, appearing onstage as part of a Sydney Opera House production of La Bohème and even hosting his own “Howl-o-ween” party last year.

“The parties’ legal representatives tell me that Oscar, the cavoodle dog which is the subject of this litigation, is a social media celebrity,” the judge said. “The parties, although able to agree on little else, assure me that Oscar is a dog of more than usual value.”

Last week she ruled that the district court does not have the jurisdiction to determine Oscar’s ownership.

“There are some alternative solutions to this course … the easiest of these would be for the parties to agree that Oscar’s value is below $20,000, but clearly neither party is prepared to put such a low price on his head,” Gibson said in her ruling.

“It may seem a very minor matter for the supreme court to be troubled by a dispute about a dog, even a celebrity dog with its own Instagram account, but there would appear to be no alternative to transfer.”

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The case may eventually return to the district court if both parties and the supreme court agree. But for now it seems Oscar will be trading influencers for solicitors and the Opera House for the courthouse.