Steamboat Springs husky custody case could be dismissed in early October | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs husky custody case could be dismissed in early October

Siberian husky Sitka remains at the center of an ongoing custody dispute between her current and former owner.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An ongoing case to determine permanent custody of a Siberian husky currently living in Steamboat Springs could be dismissed in early October.

Legal counsel for defendant Ashlee Anderson said Friday that the plaintiff in the case, Michael Gehrke, and his attorney, Jay Wayne Swearingen with the Animal Law Center, missed a scheduled call with Routt County Judge James Garrecht Friday to determine future deadlines for the case.

This led to Garrecht issuing an order that if he doesn’t hear from the plaintiff or his attorney in 10 days, Garrecht will dismiss the case.

As it stands, Anderson is in possession of 8-year-old Sitka, a Siberian husky she adopted from a friend in September 2013.

In February, Sitka was scanned for a microchip after getting loose from Anderson’s Old Town Steamboat Springs home. The microchip led Steamboat Springs Animal Control to the husky’s former owner, Gehrke, who lives 200 miles away in Canon City.

Gehrke has said the dog he calls Mya ran away from his home in September 2013, and he’s suing Anderson to regain possession of the animal.

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At a preliminary hearing in June, Garrecht said that based on Colorado law, Gehrke appeared to be the dog’s rightful owner.

Despite the initial order, Anderson was allowed to pay a $2,400 bond to keep Sitka in her possession while the case moves forward.

Emily Kelley, an attorney with Ethos Legal Service, which is representing Anderson pro-bono, said her team is prepared to see the case through until a jury trial takes place.

Now it’s possible a trial may never happen.

The plaintiffs have until Monday, Oct. 9 to contact Garrecht or risk having the case dismissed.

Kelley said the unique case has drawn a lot of attention, and should it go to trial, she is hopeful the eventual outcome would change how Colorado law views animal custody disputes.

"It's a very, very odd case," Kelley said. "We're arguing that the dog's best interests should be taken into account. We're saying that this case is bigger than Sitka … This is the type of case that changes law."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow.

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