A woman suing her ex-husband in a custody dispute over a 9-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog named Zorro filed new court papers asking that a judge intervene and order her pet’s return.
Stacey Lee alleges Adam Winfrey breached their verbal agreement to return Zorro to her once she found a home with a back yard.
In court papers filed Tuesday, she is asking Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy to grant her motion for a preliminary injunction against Winfrey. A hearing is scheduled Sept. 23.
“Being separated from my dog Zorro has had a significant impact on me emotionally and has drained my happiness,” Lee states in a sworn statement filed in support of her motion. “The impact has been substantial and can only be cured by being reunited with my dog. I continue to endure sentimental injuries each day that I am separated from my dog.”
Lee says she has not seen Zorro since February.
Winfrey’s lawyer, Jeff Bolender, did not immediately return a call for comment.
Lee filed suit July 15. She says she and Winfrey began dating in 2004, and she bought the purebred dog three years later with her money. The two maintained separate apartments at the time, but Lee began staying nearly every day at Winfrey’s residence to take care of the pup, the suit says.
Lee and Winfrey moved into a Hermosa Beach apartment together in 2009, got married in 2011 and separated the next year, according to the lawsuit, which says Lee moved into a Santa Monica apartment that did not permit pets while Winfrey’s new home had a yard.
The former couple agreed that in the best interests of Zorro, the dog would stay with Winfrey until Lee found a home with a yard, her suit says. Their divorce was finalized in April 2014, but the dog was not part of any property agreement because Lee bought Zorro with her own funds before their marriage, according to her court papers.
Lee says she and Winfrey reached an agreement in which Zorro could visit with the plaintiff on weekends or weeks at a time at her boyfriend’s home. Lee says she continued to pay for her pet’s veterinary insurance at more than $800 annually, far more than the cost to feed the pet.
But the cooperation between Lee and Winfrey took a turn in late 2014, when Winfrey’s girlfriend objected to the plaintiff “borrowing” Zorro, according to the lawsuit. Lee says Winfrey hinted in an email that she would get less time with her pet.
Lee says she then sent her own reply email, which “corrected the misinformation in the email stating that seeing her own dog was not borrowing. Ms. Lee also stated that dogs are like children for her and hoped (Winfrey’s girlfriend) would have the sensitivity to understand this.”
Despite the objections of Winfrey’s girlfriend, he and Lee continued to share Zorro through 2015, and in January, she finally found a home in West Los Angeles that had a yard, the suit states.
But Winfrey became nonresponsive to many of Lee’s emails requesting to have visits with Zorro and he once took the dog to his parents’ home while he was out of town, even though Lee was willing to look after the pet, the suit says.
“It seemed harder and harder for Ms. Lee to see Zorro since (Winfrey’s girlfriend) appeared in Winfrey’s life,” the suit states.
Lee says she went so far as to cooperate with Winfrey when he asked, for religious reasons, that their divorce be changed to an annulment “so their marriage never existed in the eyes of God.”
Lee proposed a written agreement for a regular visitation schedule, but Winfrey rejected the idea and said he and his girlfriend were now Zorro’s owners, the suit alleges. Winfrey also had a microchip placed on Zorro under his name in March without Lee’s approval, according to her complaint.
Winfrey and his girlfriend married in June, but rather than let Lee have Zorro at this time, he instead sent the dog to be boarded, the suit states.
Zorro’s breeder in Arkansas, Katina Niell, says in a sworn statement on Lee’s behalf that the plaintiff impressed her in their interactions after Lee contacted her about a dog purchase through the Internet.
“Stacey seemed like a delightful person. I had no worries that this puppy would be well taken care of,” Niell says. “It broke my heart to hear her ex-husband Adam Winfrey was (not permitting) Stacey to see Zorro.”
Zorro’s original name was Pay Day and he was born among a litter of three males and three females in January 2007, Niell says. Lee’s name is the only one on Zorro’s litter registration, according to Niell.
— City News Service