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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.

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Cat Bathroom Issues
Q:

I adopted a pet from an ad website. When we asked about any issues the cat had they only said he chews string. We have come to find out that he poops and pees EVERYWHERE. They are refusing to take the cat back. Can I sue them for the damages?

A:

While people sue one another for all sorts of things, I doubt that a court would award damages in a lawsuit because a newly adopted cat relieves himself all over. First, consider that cats are very sensitive animals and often need time to adjust to their new homes. During this transition period, cats may not act as they have acted before. Second, I strongly suggest that you consult with your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an underlying health problem that is causing the cat not to use the litter box. A veterinarian and perhaps an animal behaviorist may also provide guidance on how to resolve the bathroom problem. I hope this works out well for all of you.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog missing after adoption
Q:

Can you get a dog back after adopting him out with the agreement that you would be apart of his life and have been cut off and now dog is missing, what can I do to get information to find him? The people that had him have lied about many things even making up people I am concerned about dog fighting as he is a pit bull mix.

A:

You have every reason to be concerned. However, an individual who gives an animal away generally has no further rights to that animal (unless there is a contract that provides specific rights). Even when there is a contract it can be very difficult to enforce a return provision, particularly if the contract is not in writing since disputing parties often provide different versions of the agreement. Getting an animal returned when the animal is allegedly missing is that much more difficult.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I sue for refund of cost?
Q:

I got puppy who had coccidia and c diff from breeder. Extreme diarreah Breeder kept saying just nervous. Now I am sick! Gave puppy back and she refused refunding me. Can I sue for refund of cost and vet bills and my medical care?

A:

An individual who believes that he/she was sold a sick animal can sue the seller (although it is often less expensive and less time consuming to try to try to settle these types of disputes). Success in such a lawsuit is dependent on various factors. Florida’s pet sale law provides remedies to persons who purchase sick dogs or cats from pet dealers. One of this law's provisions states that if within 14 days following the sale by a pet dealer a licensed veterinarian certifies that the animal was unfit for purchase due to illness, the purchaser can return the animal and receive a refund and reimbursement for reasonable veterinary costs related to the veterinarian’s examination and certification that the dog or cat was unfit for purchase. The law provides for other remedies for purchasers who want to keep the animal and get reimbursed for veterinary care to treat the animal (up to the purchase price) and for purchasers who want to exchange the animal for another animal. There are also provisions providing for remedies in the event the animal has a congenital disorder which adversely affects the health of the animal or if the pet dealer misrepresented the breed, sex or health of the animal (where the purchaser has one year from sale to attempt to exercise rights under this law). The law defines “pet dealer” to include any person or other entity (but not animal shelters) who “in the ordinary course of business, engages in the sale of more than two litters, or 20 dogs or cats, per year, whichever is greater, to the public." In addition to specific laws addressing pet sales, another law (Uniform Commercial Code “UCC”) may be relied on by consumers who purchase an animal from a merchant. Purchasers can have greater latitude under the UCC since the time frames provided in the pet dealer law may not apply. For more information, contact the Florida Department of Consumer Services. Also, unless one can prove that the pet dealer knowingly sold an animal with a disease that is contagious to humans, it will probably be difficult to get an award for one’s own medical expenses. Additionally, many sales and adoption contracts specifically state that the seller/shelter will not be responsible for any injury, sickness, etc. caused by the purchased or adopted animal. I suggest you contact a personal injury attorney in your state if you want to pursue this matter. I hope the puppy does well and is placed in a humane forever home.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Whose dog?
Q:

Hello. On Easter Sunday this year 2015, I was called to a home and a pitbull was given to me. The girl stated that her boyfriend left the dog to her. The Dog was very very skinny weighed about 35 lbs. Now she is 58 pounds and vet checked an on meds. her boyfriend wants the dog back. what do I do I love her

A:

Generally, if a person gives an animal away (in your scenario, the boyfriend) then such person (the boyfriend) would not have any further rights to that animal. Therefore, the person to whom the animal was given (in your scenario, the girlfriend) would normally have the right to give away or sell the animal and the new “owner” (you) would typically have the right to keep the animal. However, as with many situations, the various parties often have different “recollections” of the “facts.” When disputing parties cannot agree, lawsuits are sometimes commenced. When one suspects animal neglect or cruelty, the local humane society, SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to animals), and police should be contacted.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Caretaker designation
Q:

Does the Animal League have a program where pets, adopted from the League, will be taken care of in the event the owner dies or becomes incapacitated (and has no family)?  The League would be named as caretaker in the will as well as a beneficiary.  I look forward to hearing from you.

A:

YES and North Shore Animal League America’s Safe Haven Surviving Pet Care Program is available even for those animals who were not adopted from the League. Information about the program can be found at www.AnimalLeague.org/SafeHaven. Contact North Shore Animal League America at 516-883-7900, extension 354, SafeHaven@AnimalLeague.org.  


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Animal Neglect by Neighbors
Q:

My neighbors next door have two dogs they keep in a kennel. When we first moved in the kennel was filthy- covered in fices and smelled horrible. I tried talking to them, which went badly. He called me names, etc, so I called the sheriff for help. They talked to them and now when she cleans the kennel she takes a hose and sprays the dog waste all over them, doesn't even let them out of the kennel long enough to clean it. I also saw her throwing their food in the kennel (the dogs kennel is right at our back gate where I have a clear view from my porch). I again tried talking to them and she told me it's too dirty to go in there and as long as she's feeding them she's not breaking any laws. The worst of all this is the dogs are NEVER let out of the kennel. There is always someone at my house. My husband and I work different hours and have never seen these dogs out of the kennel. I can hear them whining day and night. They have kids that I occasionally hear trying to let them out, but their mom yells at them if they do. The two dogs have to share one dog house. There is absolutely no affection shown to these dogs. They don't pet them, they don't talk to them, and the only contact with them is when she sprays out the kennel. These are the sweetest dogs and need help.

A:

In addition to the police and sheriff, there are special officers who enforce animal protection laws. I suggest contacting the Oregon Humane Society. When made aware of a neglectful situation, local animal rescue groups sometimes intervene as well. Additionally, local health departments occasionally will investigate allegations involving odors and unhealthful conditions. Also, sometimes people who neglect their animals are willing to sell/adopt them to another family.  


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Breeder won't pay after death of dog
Q:

I indirectly knew a breeder that was offer to sell me a dog. My older sis was going to get a pup as myself. The breeder cashed my check and went on vacation leaving the pups with a sitter. My dog choked to death. My sis rescued her dog the next day. This happened last June 2014. I paid $200 and she wont pay me back. She is also still breeding. Another friend didn't know about the "accident" now her puppy is gravely ill. I have been nice up till she posted another litter on a flea market site on Facebook. I warned readers of proceeding with caution. She blew my phone with messages saying what I did is defamation and slander. Can you help me please? I am worried she is going to hurt the pups again and then crush the pups new owners. This all could very well be a scam. I really need advisement. thank you for your time...

A:

Complaints about animal neglect/abuse can be made to the Pennsylvania SPCA and local humane socieites The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also investigates breeders.

 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my lemur back?
Q:

I was having trouble with my lemurs aggressive behavior and asked my vet for help. he got me in touch with what i was told was his exotic pet rescue partner and they have other lemurs that she would be with. after i let them take her i found out my vet doesnt have part ownership and they dont have other lemurs. they said i cant visit her and I want her back and they said thats not an otion what are my rights,help!!!

A:

Lemurs should not be kept as pets. They are wild animals. If you have concerns regarding the facility where the lemurs are being kept, I suggest you contact your local humane society, SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Generally when an individual gives away his/her animals, he/she has no further rights to the animals. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I was promised a puppy for studding.
Q:

some neigbors saw my fawn cheweenie and wanted him to mate with thier  mini dusand he said I could have two puppies and pick of litter  . so we did we even have pics of them  locked and mated  we did it 2 times .well he came over told me she had 5 puppies  . we went over see them she had a pure white they said they was keeping then she had a blue they said they was keeing i said  all i want is a lil female  . the wife said they was all the puppes was given away  . but the husband  let me pick one female out  .  we went today to get out puppy the wife said  the girls was all gone all left was the blue and the white and they was thiers . she offered me 50 gollars for using my male  . but i was promised a puppy not one but two and pick of litter but i just wanted a lil female  .now she told me leave not come back the puppies was gone but what they kept  , can i take them small clamis court i have  witnesses of the aggreement and pictures they mated our doig since he a rare gold eye fawn he made two rare pure white and blues for then

A:

Small Claims Court is a user friendly and inexpensive way to resolve relatively small monetary disputes. The judge will decide the merits of the case based on the evidence presented. Rather than breeding your dog, I suggest you have him neutered. There is a tragic overpopulation of dogs and cats. Spaying and neutering also provide health benefits.

 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it safe to say that the horse is mine?
Q:

In 2009 a client purchased a racehorse off the track. She was not old enough to sign as the purchaser, so I did. He has since been in my name legally on his registration papers. 2 1/2 years ago she left for nursing school through the army, and I began training him again. Her mother was paying the bills for him, but not paying for his training. Eventually it turned into me paying half the bills and now all of them. Where he is still legally in my name (with the exception of his vet records) and I've been caring for him and paying bills, is it safe to say that he is mine? I didn't begin paying all the bills by choice, they have been nonexistent for the last 4 or 5 months and the credit card can no longer be processed. 

Thank you for any advice or info you can provide.

A:

When people share an animal’s expenses and enter into convoluted arrangements (one person signs as the purchaser but another person pays for the animal), it is not “safe to say” that only one of the individuals involved in this transaction is the animal’s “owner.” That would be up to a court or up to the individuals to enter into an agreement wherein one individual relinquishes rights. Otherwise, “ownership” remains unclear.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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