The Dog Who Took the Witness Stand
Tracing the origins of the animal rights movement to one truly bizarre 1922 court case.
Illustrations by Subin Yang
“And now call the dog,” said Judge Edward Kimball to the bailiff. Did he smile when he said it? Did he look embarrassed? Judge Kimball was a serious man — a graduate of George Washington University and Harvard Law, appointed to the District of Columbia municipal court by President Wilson in 1914. He was a well-respected judge and a fixture of D.C. society. So why was he putting a dog on the stand?
The case was a pet ownership battle. The plaintiff, Maj. Gen. Eli Helmick, said that the dog was Buddy, purchased in 1920 from Brockway Kennels in Baldwin, Kansas, which had advertised 75 “white, intelligent, shaggy, handsome trick Eskimos.” For almost two years, the family raised the pup, until one day in November 1921 it went missing. Months later, Florence Helmick visited Keeley Morse’s hat shop, where customers were greeted by a fluffy, friendly white dog that Florence insisted was her Buddy. She demanded Morse hand over the animal. When he refused to surrender …