Oscar, who is a prized cavoodle, had more than 10,000 Instagram followers at the height of its fame. The account, @itsoscardownunder, has since been deactivated.
However, away from the cute pictures, a bitter dispute has erupted between Mark Gillespie and husband and wife Kenneth Flavell and Gina Edwards over who is the legal owner of the pup.
Gillespie, who works as a cruise ship director, apparently used to let Flavell and Edwards mind the dog while he was away with work and the couple built up the dog’s online following from there, with the two parties appearing to have some sort of shared custody agreement.
This eventually led to many endorsements from pet companies but, as the dog became more well known, Gillespie was informed by Flavell and Edwards in 2019 that they would not be returning the dog to him.
Speaking to news programme A Current Affair, Gillespie said that he was “heartbroken instantly and didn’t think that she would do that to me”.
“I mean, he’s my dog. [Gina] never wanted him as a pup. I just want my dog to be a dog,” he added.
During his appearance on the show, producers attempted to reunite Gillespie with the dog, who he had not seen for 18 months. However, that didn’t quite go to plan.
In an incident that reportedly took place in the Kirribilli suburb, Gillespie spotted Edwards taking the dog for a walk and attempted to pick up the dog and take it away causing Edwards to chase him.
“I’m just collecting my property thank you,” yells Gillespie with Edwards shouting in response: “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare.”
After slipping on grass, Gillespie is told by Edwards that there is a court case pending against him. “I can’t believe you took him in the first place,” Gillespie says in response.
Nine police officers showed up on the scene and told Gillespie that he had the right to take Oscar home as he is the registered owner, but he decided to let it return to Edwards and vowed to fight for the pup in court instead.
He added: “After the incident and all the involvement I decided it was better that I did leave Oscar with Gina for now. But Oscar is much loved and I will fight for him in court and follow the due process. He needs to be home and running around in his yard here.”
In August 2020, Flavell and Edwards sued Gillespie for custody of Oscar, with the case set to be heard at the Supreme Court, because Oscar is said to be too valuable to have his ownership determined by the state’s district court.
The couple are also seeking damages against Gillespie who they claim is in breach of contract and are seeking legal recognition that they are the dog’s owners. In contrast, Gillespie is also said to be after control of Oscar’s Instagram account.
New South Wales district court judge Judith Gibson is quoted by the Sydney Moring Herald as saying in her ruling last year: ”The parties’ legal representatives tell me that Oscar, the cavoodle dog which is the subject of this litigation, is a social media celebrity. The parties, although able to agree on little else, assure me that Oscar is a dog of more than usual value.
“There are some alternative solutions to this course … the easiest of these would be for the parties to agree that Oscar’s value is below $20,000, but clearly neither party is prepared to put such a low price on his head. It may seem a very minor matter for the supreme court to be troubled by a dispute about a dog, even a celebrity dog with its own Instagram account, but there would appear to be no alternative to transfer.”