A Manhattan woman has sued her ex-boyfriend over a double dog-napping.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Melinda Levine claims her ex, Eric
Steinberg, snuck off with her beloved schnauzers, Francine and Madeline —
therapy dogs her doctors say she relies on for solace from her multiple
sclerosis and depression.
“I’ve gone a month without seeing them and I’m just devastated,” Levine sobbed to The New York Post.
“I’ve brought these babies up since they were small enough to sit in the palm of my hand.”
Levine and Steinberg, who remain neighbors on the Upper East Side,
had lived together with the two dogs for three years, and then amicably
shared “custody” for another five years.
But last month, Steinberg suddenly refused to return them or return her desperate phone calls, her suit contends.
At the time the dogs disappeared, Steinberg had just learned that his
new wife, Mandy, was pregnant, the suit says. With a baby on the way,
Mandy allegedly wanted nothing more to do with the several-times-a-week
“It is believed Mandy basically told Eric Steinberg to take complete
control over plaintiff’s dogs and to end the custody arrangement that
had worked perfectly for the last five years,” the suit says.
Levine is seeking a judge’s order “that Francine and Madeline be
returned immediately and forthwith,” although she says in the suit that
she’d be happy to continue sharing custody.
“Mandy doesn’t ever even have to see me,” Levine said. “My fiance, Charles, could pick them up and drop them off.”
The pooches’ city dog licenses are under her name, as are their registrations as therapy dogs, she said.
“I’ll keep fighting. They’re the most important thing in the world to me,” she said, tearfully.
The suit includes a supporting letter from Levine’s psychiatrist.
“A crucial and most steady and reliable source of her emotional
well-being has suddenly been yanked from her,” bringing on “severe
depression,” wrote Dr. Dinko Podrug.
In New York state case law, pets occupy a grey area somewhere between
actual children and inanimate property, said Levine’s lawyer, “pet law”
attorney Eric Feinberg.
The lawyer said he hopes a judge will recognize how important the
schnauzers are to Levine’s well-being, their value extending far beyond
any other property the couple had shared.
“There are times she can’t even speak to me, she’s crying so hard,” the lawyer said.
“She’s as attached to these dogs as I’ve ever seen,” he added. “She
desperately wants to get those dogs back. They make her illnesses
Steinberg did not return a call seeking comment.