Former neighbors granted joint custody of Labrador by Pinellas Co. court

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It's not the type of custody case that usually goes to court.  In Pinellas County, a dog is at the center of a legal custody battle.

Tina Walker adopted Elario two years ago.

"He's a lab. He likes tennis balls and swimming, all that good stuff," she said.

But for the last five weeks, she's been sharing custody of the canine with her former Madeira Beach neighbor. Last month, it was up to a Pinellas County judge to decide who was the dog's rightful owner.

"And I don't understand it because, in the state of Florida, a dog is property. He's licensed to me, I paid for the dog," said Walker.

According to court records, that neighbor, David, sued Walker for sole ownership of the 100-pound pup.  He told the court he's been Elario's main caretaker, paying for the dog's food, vet bills, and toys.

In the paperwork, David writes "Elario and I have a very strong bond/love for each other... He has been with me 24/7 for the last year and a half… I believe that Elario is my dog and should stay with me."

FOX 13 News stopped by David's house Friday, but he didn't want to comment about the case on-camera.

Walker tells us she and David used to be incredibly close; like family. She helped take care of the Vietnam veteran after he had lung cancer surgery and admits Elario played a huge role in his recovery.

Yet for some reason, a rift started growing between the pair.

"I loved him, for two and a half years I took care of him,” Walker said. “So I don't understand this at all.  I'm betrayed, I’m broken-hearted, my dog is split up."

She says she was forced to move; he says Walker has been keeping Elario away from him.           

The details depend on who you ask. But in the end, the judge ruled Walker and David will share custody of the canine, like divorced parents of a child, swapping weekends with the black lab.           

"To me, it seems very personal, it doesn't seem to be so much about the dog as much as it's a personal attack," added Walker.

Last week, Walker filed an appeal of the joint custody judgment.