World's Largest NO-KILL
Animal Rescue
and Adoption Organization
 
 
 

 

Members get our updates on rescue alerts, league events, special offers and more.

sign up!

animal

Facebook Instagram YouTube Twitter
    

Like us on Facebook  
Like us on Facebook  
| Share share | email | print | A A

Search Advice

Search for:
Hint: Use * for wildcard, e.g. “adopt*” will return results matching both “adoption” and “adopting”

Legal Q&As

Great tips and advice from the Animal League Experts.

Below are Q&As on legal that relate to cats or dogs. Not what you're looking for? Use the form below to change your criteria, or submit your question to one of our experts.

Pet Legal Disclaimer
Please note that responses to legal inquiries are not meant to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney in your state. The materials in this website and any responses to questions are for informational purposes only and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. This website, the information contained herein, and any responses to questions directed to this column are not intended to create and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely or act upon any information provided on this website or in any response to your inquiry without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.

animal
Categories
experts
 
My late boyrfriend's mother wants custody of our dog.
Q:

First I would like to thank you for taking the time to review my questions, and for any advice that you can provide me. This is regarding my 8 year old miniature Dachshund. My boyfriend passed away unexpectedly and was rightful owner of a dog since the day he found him as a stray. At the time he found the dog, he was only 8 weeks old. He moved into my home in 2010. The entire time that we lived together I was a primary caregiver to the dog. His mother has sent a non-legal letter stating that she wants me to turn over  the dog  to her because she feels that this is what her son would want, and he is a Family Dog. I can honestly say that his family was not a big part of the dog's life once we began dating. He did not have a will. I am in the process of getting him registered, he has an appointment to be vaccinated for the registration, and I regularly have him groomed. I have been the sole caregiver of the dog since the day that my boyfriend passed away. His mother stated in her letter that she plans to go to court if I do not follow her requests. I understand that they may have been in his life more frequently prior to my dating their son, but for more than 3 years this dog has become my family. The idea of losing him is ripping me apart, and this is the last piece of my boyfriend that I have. Any assistance or advice that you can provide me with I would be so appreciative.

A:

The law on who gets what when a person dies without a will can get complicated and usually depends on who the surviving relatives are (for example, spouse, children, parents). However, if a court believes that the decedent’s companion animal was gifted prior to the decedent’s death or that the decedent and another person were ‘co-owners’ of the animal, then the court would likely find that the person who was the recipient of the gift or ‘co-owner’ is entitled to the animal. It is hard to know if the court would determine that you, your boyfriend’s parents, or neither of you were ‘co-owners.’ Occasionally when custody of an animal is at issue, a court will also consider an animal’s best interests. A visitation schedule can sometimes work if the individuals are amenable, but when the  individuals live far apart, that obviously poses a problem for the animal and the individuals.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Neighbor had my cat euthanized.
Q:

My indoor/outdoor cat, who has lived in the same house his whole life, was wandering a few doors down. The neighbor noticed he was injured, took him to the vet and had him euthanized. Can any action take place over this matter?

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your cat. Texas law states that: “(a) A veterinarian who provides emergency treatment to an ill or injured animal on the veterinarian's own initiative, or at the request of a person other than the animal's owner, is not liable to the owner for damages to the animal unless the veterinarian commits gross negligence. (b) If the veterinarian performs euthanasia on the animal, the veterinarian is presumed to have performed a humane act necessary to relieve the animal's pain and suffering." If the finder of an animal knows the identity of an injured  animal’s ‘owner’ and fails to make reasonable efforts to contact the ‘owner’ before having the animal euthanized, such person might be held liable. It is likely that any monetary award would be low, particularly if the animal was severely injured and not able to be saved.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Neighbors who found my dogs want $100 to get them back.
Q:

I was recently away for a weekend and when I returned my parents told me that my dogs had gotten out of the house. My parents went everywhere looking for them and couldn't find them. Finally they found them at a neighbors house but they are charging us $100 to get them back. They also cut my dogs hair without my permission. How can I get them back and should I call the police?

A:

Many people who lose animals are not so lucky. Their animals are lost forever. Although perhaps un-neighborly to charge $100 for caring for the dogs, the value of the dog care (when compared to commercial boarding fees, for example) could even exceed $100 depending on how long the neighbors cared for them. Of course, finders of animals should notify local authorities. In California there is a law which states that, “One who finds lost property under circumstances which give him knowledge of or means of inquiry as to the true owner, and who appropriates such property to his own use….without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him, is guilty of theft.” If these were my dogs I would thank my lucky stars that they were safe. I would also thank my neighbors and pay the $100.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Lost dog ended up in another city.
Q:

I lost my dog, then he ended up in the another city. The lady who has now is not returning him. I am 110% sure he is my dog. When the vet neutered him he had bad infection so they removed his scrotal sac. He does not have microchip. what I should do? I went to the local police station. They assigned detective. Now detective is saying dog is in the other city. He cannot help me. I have this dog 4 years. I have 2 little kids. All family is so sad. Please help me.

A:

If the reason the finder of the dog will not return the dog is that she does not believe the dog is yours, it might help to work out an arrangement for your dog’s veterinary records and photos to be provided to a veterinarian who can then examine the found dog. When settlements cannot be reached for the return of an animal and the police refuse to get involved, sometimes civil actions for the return of an animal are commenced. One’s rights are dependent on several factors. If the person in possession of an animal adopted the animal from a shelter that held the animal for the legally required time period and followed other legal mandates (such as notification of owners where identifiable through microchips, licenses, etc.), courts have generally found that the adopter has greater rights than the original ‘owner’ who lost the dog (although there have been exceptions, particularly in disaster situations ---Katrina, for example--- where the ‘owner’ could not have gone to the shelter in a timely manner). In other lost and found disputes, courts have considered the efforts of the finder of the animal to locate the animal’s ‘owner’ and the efforts of the person who lost the animal to find the animal. Good luck!


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What rights does my son have to the puppy police forced him to give to his ex?
Q:

My son and his ex where engaged to be married in October, they purchased a puppy this past December after Christmas. I should say my son pulled out the cash and handed it to her to pay the breeder for the puppy. He has paid 1/2 in everything with this puppy as far as the security deposit at their apartment, to the vet bills, dog tags everything and so on.
They were having issues she became unhappy and took off on a Friday night when she was under doctor orders to not be driving, and left. My son thought she went back to her parents house where she was suppose to go for the weekend with her mom out of town to a relatives bachelorette party. The next morning he receives a text from her sister asking what Alexa was doing spending the night with this guy.
My son upset packed up the dog and came back to our house as he didn't know what was going on or happening. Long story short she called off the wedding and she wanted him to move out of the apartment.
For the last 3-4 weeks now he has dealt with the police from there calling him threatening him that they were going to charge him with theft over numerous things and she kept demanding the dog back.
Last week the detective told him that if he didn't bring the dog back that he was going to turn it over to the prosecutor and charge him with theft. As my son explained he paid for the dog and has paid half for everything for the dog. The detective said he would turn it over to the prosecutor.
Apparently she obtained a reciept for the dog that she had put in her name, nobody had a reciept for the dog as of a few weeks ago. She had put the dog tags in her name due to his work schedule. He had no idea that she was going to do this to him.
He received a call yesterday by the detective to bring the dog now to the police station or our county we live in would be out to arrest him and take him to jail and arrest him. He felt he had no choice but to take the dog back so he wasn't charged with theft. So my question is what rights does he have to his puppy?

A:

If one believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, a lawsuit for the return of the animal can be commenced. Courts will review the evidence of ‘ownership,’ including, for example, who purchased or adopted the dog and whether the dog was subsequently given as a gift or sold, who paid for the dog’s care, who was the primary caretaker (fed the dog, took the dog to the vet and groomer, walked the dog, etc.) and under whose name the dog is ‘registered’ (dog license, microchip, purebred papers). While having a dog license, microchip, and registration papers in one’s name can be helpful in trying to prove ‘ownership’ of an animal, they do not definitively prove ‘ownership.’ After all, if one steals an animal and buys a dog license, the thief doesn’t have a lawful claim to the animal. Disputes between separating couples are difficult to resolve since oftentimes both parties purchased/adopted the animal and have contributed to the animal’s care on a fairly equal basis. Sometimes courts will consider the animal’s best interests. Courts tend not to order visitation (although that has been done) since many courts view animals as property and they do not want to get involved with enforcing visitation orders (which depending on the circumstances could last for years). I hope your son and his ex can reach an agreement that considers the animal’s best interests.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Neighbor falsely accused my dog of attacking their dog.
Q:

I have 3 dogs. I was in my backyard with my daughter and we heard a dog yelping next door. I only had 1 dog outside but she had run into the house to get water. Then we ran to the neighbors fence but we're unable to see what happened. I went next door to make sure the neighbors heard the distress. She came out on the phone and said her one eyed dog broke the back of their other dog. The couple were involved in getting a vet and I left. The next day they are accusing one of my dogs of jumping the fence attacking and jumping back over the fence? My dogs can't jump the fence and I was outside. Why would they lie and what if they sue and lie?

A:

Hopefully, the court will be able to determine the truth based on all of the evidence presented.  Depending on one’s policy, homeowners insurance companies will defend such lawsuits and pay damages, if any are awarded.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My ex took my dog.
Q:

My ex took my dog and left while I was at work. The dog was a birthday gift to me on my birthday last year. The adoption paper is in my name. Which courts determine custody of the animal? I went to small claims and that's only for money. I want the dog back.

A:

IWhen one’s animal is wrongfully withheld, a replevin action (an action for the return of property) is sometimes commenced. In NY, the Supreme Court handles replevin actions as do some lower courts, such as the NYC Civil Court.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I keep my friend's cat?
Q:

Hi, I have a questionI can't seem to get answered no matter where I check! I am good friends with a girl I met in 2004.  Well, we have been good friends up until now, it looks like our friendship might be ending.  The point is I have her cat and have been taking care of it with the utmost love and vet care possible for 6 years.  She let me un-officially have her cat while she was living in Virginia in 2008. I have always felt that she would eventually want her cat back someday, I strongly believe this, but she has never explicitly or officially told me this. She lives with her husband and 2 year old son in Virginia and they now also have two little dogs. I live alone and am retired, so I am able to give the cat tons of attention and love, and my place is much more peaceful than her place is since she has a family and other pets.  The cat is almost 11 years old and is definitely comfortable and used to being with me for 6 years.  If she demands I give the cat back do I have any legal right to continue to keep it, or will the court automatically say the cat should be given back to her just because she was the original owner, oh so long ago? I love this cat and she is older now and totally happy in a peaceful, loving environment!  Will I have to give her up if my friend wants her back?

A:

There is no way to predict the outcome of a pet custody dispute. Despite similarities, the facts of each pet custody case differ. However, when an animal’s ‘owner’ gives possession of the animal to a friend, the animal has resided with the friend for years, the original ‘owner’ has not paid boarding fees or expenses for the animal’s care (such as veterinary fees and food), a court could certainly find that the animal was given away or abandoned. Some courts also consider the best interests of the animal. In a NY case, the court in awarding custody of an elderly cat, stated: “Cognizant of the cherished status accorded to pets in our society, the strong emotions engendered by disputes of this nature, and the limited ability of the courts to resolve them satisfactorily, on the record presented, we think it best for all concerned that, given his limited life expectancy, Lovey, who is now almost ten years old, remain where he has lived, prospered, loved and been loved for the past four years.”
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My aunt won't give me back my dogs.
Q:

My aunt agreed verbally to care for my two dogs while I stressed and depressed by a difficult child custody battle. My rich ex has lured my 16 yr old daughter away with material goodies. Now that it is over she refuses to return the dogs and said she will file harassment charges if I don't stop bothering her.

A:

If one believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue to try to get the animal returned. Courts will try to determine who ‘owns’ the animal. Sometimes, courts will consider the animal’s best interests. When there is no written agreement, determining rightful ‘ownership’ can be very difficult since disputing parties often have a different recollection of the agreement.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I sue the vet for the cost of the dog he injured?
Q:

So I took my litter of 4 day old puppies to the vet to get their tails docked. The vet cut one of the tails off so far that there is literally no tail left. needless to say, it is now horribly infected and the puppy is probably going to die. I raise these dogs and they are very expensive, not to mention the fact that they are my babies. Can I sue the vet for the cost of the dog?

A:

I am very sorry to hear about your puppy. For future reference, please keep in mind that tail docking is a very painful procedure. Humane organizations and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) oppose tail docking when done for cosmetic purposes. One can sue a veterinarian for malpractice. In such a lawsuit one can seek reimbursement for the cost of the dog and other damages. Of course, it will be necessary to prove that the veterinarian acted improperly. One can also make a complaint with the state’s veterinary licensing board. In Wisconsin, the Department of Safety & Professional Services (http://dsps.wi.gov) investigates complaints against veterinarians and has the authority to reprimand, suspend, or revoke licenses, but does not mediate financial disputes.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Items 91 - 100 of 568  Previous12345678910Next

 

Browse our extensive expert advice by selecting categories below:

Show Expert Advice by Topic

Animal:
Topic:
Advice Type: