Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

She's on Financial Gravy Train Lawyer Keeps Tight Chain on Dog-Eat-Dog World

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

She's on Financial Gravy Train Lawyer Keeps Tight Chain on Dog-Eat-Dog World

Article excerpt

THE Denver suburb of Aurora allows just three dogs to a family. So it didn't look good for the couple out on the edge of town when an appliance repairman complained about how many dogs they had.

They had 105.

Poodles. White toy poodles.

Oodles of poodles.

Either the owners or most of the little black-eyed bundles of jittery joy were going to have to go. Distraught, the dog breeders sought legal advice.

This was a case for the dog-law lawyer.

They called Linda Cawley.

"It was a nice house," Cawley recalled. "We sat in the living room. Then I started seeing poodles popping up. There was one in the bookshelf, one in the sink, one on the Lazy Susan. They were just everywhere, having a good time."

At any given time, Cawley says, she has 150 or so cases all over the country, some with an oddly human flavor.

There are dogs caught in disputes over custody or overdue dog-support payments. Dogs whose owners want to create a trust fund for them. Dogs who made unwanted sexual advances on other dogs.

Dogs lost by airlines or shot by animal-control officers. Dogs that attacked someone. Dogs accused of conspiring to get other dogs to attack someone. Dogs that bark at people (and, in one instance, a person that barked at a dog).

The California couple called it quits. Keep the quarter-million-dollar house, she said, but give me the Airedale. After a while, the ex-husband had a change of heart. Forget the house. He wanted the Airedale, which he dognapped to Nevada before hiring Cawley to mediate. The ex-wife got the dog back. The man got visitation rights.

Linda Cawley grew up in Cleveland reading "Lassie" and the like, and adoring her collie, Penny.

"I always wanted to be a lawyer, and I always loved dogs," said the lawyer, whose last name is pronounced suspiciously like Penny's breed. "But I never thought I'd put the two together."

She has no children. She has dogs - two German shepherds and a Shiloh shepherd. Their pictures adorn her desk and window sill. Cawley, 32, says she's not someone who substitutes canine companionship for human family. She says she has no children because she's been married only a month.

"A lot of my clients do treat dogs as children, elevate them to a status beyond human," she said. "I don't see myself that way. My dogs are treated like dogs."

A Denver woman walking her dog was knocked down when two other dogs crossed the street and raised a ruckus. A golden retriever, trained to help its handicapped owners, joined in the barking but never crossed the street. The woman filed a complaint, saying she was attacked and naming the retriever as a co-conspirator. Cawley for the defense. Case pending.

It started in San Diego, where Cawley moved to practice entertainment law after graduating from Denver University Law School in 1987. She bought a German shepherd puppy and decided the sales contract was deficient. …

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