LINCOLN — A French bulldog by the name of Princess Pot Roast will never compete at the Westminster Kennel Club, but she got judged Friday by the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Peter Zelenka argued that the bulldog had been given to him by his boyfriend during their five-year relationship. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed, putting an end to a canine custody dispute that started after the Omaha couple’s bitter breakup in 2015.
“I’m very happy with the decision,” Zelenka said Friday. “I think it was the right decision.”
The high court routinely rules on domestic property disputes, which is what the bulldog case amounted to. But Omaha attorney Jill Mason, who represented Zelenka, said she has noticed more pets at the center of litigation in recent years.
“We’ve had cases where dogs have been an issue in divorces,” she said. “But we have never had one in our practice that’s gone before the Supreme Court.”
The court upheld the decision of Douglas County District Judge Kimberly Miller Pankonin, who presided last year over a two-day bench trial intended to resolve the fight. Zelenka’s mother, along with the dog’s breeder, testified that the pooch had been given to Zelenka as a birthday gift from Jason D. Pratte.
The men dubbed the pup Princess Pot Roast on her American Kennel Club registration, but they called her Pavlov.
After their relationship ran into tough times, Zelenka left the French princess with the Russian nickname at Pratte’s house. He hoped a brief separation would help work things out, but when he returned a week later, the locks had been changed.
Zelenka said he hasn’t seen the dog since.
Pratte appealed last year’s lower court decision, arguing that he purchased Pavlov as a companion for his Labrador retriever and that the bulldog had always lived at his home. The Supreme Court dismissed the argument and pointed out that Zelenka also lived in the home throughout much of the relationship between the two men.
Both the trial court and the Supreme Court said the testimony of the breeder helped Zelenka.
“We conclude Zelenka met his burden of proving Pavlov was a gift from Pratte,” said the opinion by Judge Stephanie Stacy. “Pratte’s assignment of error to the contrary is without merit.”
A message left with Pratte’s lawyer Friday afternoon was not returned.
Zelenka said he hopes to be reunited with the dog early this week.
“She has so much personality in that little body,” Zelenka said. “French bulldogs are fantastic. They’re amazing.”