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Dog custody fight: N.Y. man spends $60,000, goes online for more

May 14, 2012|By Tina Susman

NEW YORK -- Breaking up is hard to do, and when there's a cute little dog caught in the middle, it's even harder -- and a lot more expensive. That's why one man has turned to the Web to raise funds after spending about $60,000 of his own money to fight for custody of a puggle named Knuckles.

For those unversed in the lexicon of dog lovers, a puggle is a cross between a pug and a beagle, making the breed ideal for New York's smallish living spaces. And Craig Dershowitz, whose story is told Monday in the New York Post and other local media, says Knuckles loves living in the big city, with its miles of sidewalks and curbs just waiting to be sniffed and sprayed. 

But Dershowitz, a 34-year-old tattoo artist and pro-Israeli activist whose projects have included Artists 4 Israel, says that when he and his girlfriend, Sarah Brega, split up last year after four years together, she violated an agreement to let him keep the dog he had adopted from a New Jersey litter. Both sides hired lawyers and filed court papers in February, with Brega saying Dershowitz had presented her with the puppy as a gift and Dershowitz insisting the deal was that Brega would return Knuckles to him once he found his own place to live.

Now, Dershowitz has taken things further with "Rescue Knux," an online effort to raise money to continue the custody fight. (Knux is Knuckles' nickname.) “I’ve pretty much gone through my life savings,” Dershowitz told the Post in explaining why he was turning to the Web for more money. He added of his reported $60,000 expenditure so far: "It’s worth it.”

Rescue Knux offers a variety of perks in exchange for different donations, ranging from "a virtual smooch" from the dog, for $10, to a customized mural done by "legends of graffiti," for $10,000. The goal is to raise $20,000 by June 16; as of Monday, $165 had been raised, according to the site.

Dershowitz has also used the site to defend himself against critics who might be aghast at the idea of spending so much money to get custody of a dog. He says they don't understand the bond between pet owners and their pets, especially one raised from puppy-hood.

"No, he is not a human being. But, he is a caring, loving being with a soul that I have grabbed and held. He does mean that much to me," Dershowitz wrote.

Brega, a fashion stylist who Dershowitz said has moved to California, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In court papers filed earlier in the case, though, she said Knuckles was happy living on the West Coast.

“Knuckles lives a happy and healthy life in California with me, where he has ample room to play, and lives in close proximity to a beach for off-leash dog-park outings,” she said in the court papers.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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