Bones of Contention Get Buried in Doggy Court, Where Justice Is Tempered with Mercy

updated 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/11/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

No doubt about it, Fritz (not his real name) was a problem dog. His owners couldn't keep him inside at night because he chewed the furniture. Outside, however, he never stopped barking. The neighbors complained, the owners became adamant, tempers flared and attorneys were hired. Clearly, this was a case for Doggy Court.

Located in Beverly Hills (where else?) and created by former Deputy City Attorney Steven Rood and dog trainer Matthew Margolis, Doggy Court is the nation's first private mediation service devoted exclusively to canine-related disputes. "Passions run very high in these cases," says Rood, 37, who notes that before Doggy Court existed each side in l'affaire Fritz had forked out "$30,000 minimum" in legal fees. Appalled, Rood tried to mediate rather than prosecute for the city, but he didn't know enough about pooches. Enter Margolis, 45, co-author of When Good Dogs Do Bad Things, who volunteered to donate his services.

As they've since done with all cases, Rood had both sides sit down and tell their stories to Margolis, who compiled in-depth profiles of the humans. "It's the people who drive dogs crazy," explains Margolis. "I'm the objective party. I kind of talk for the dog."

The free service has proved a howling success. Since its inception last May, 30 cases—mostly involving barking, biting and blighted flower beds—have been settled in Doggy Court. Rood, who's now in private practice, plans to help Margolis market the concept nationally. As for Fritz, Margolis determined that the dog was ill-mannered because of improper training and recommended a six-week housebreaking course. "Now the dog stays indoors at night, behaves well and everybody's happy," says Margolis. "Case closed."

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