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Legal Q&As

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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.

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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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Vet killed my dog with a bad injection.
Q:

I took my 1-year and 10 month old dog to his vet for his shots that he gets all the time and has no side effect with them. So this day they decied to give him a shot called Pro Heart 6. They never asked me about it, they never told me the side effects, and they never told me to sign anything about that shot. I always gave him the pill. So they gave my dog his regular shots and the Pro Heart 6 and moments later he got sick, and then died 4 hours later. Then I read that Pro Heart was taken off the market at one time and put back on with a warning lable. It also said it should not be given with other meds. What can I do?

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Without a necropsy it may be difficult to know for sure what caused your dog’s death. Overdoses of any of the shots can be considered along with giving them at the same time. The NYS Education Department, Office of the Professions, accepts complaints against veterinarians (800-442-8106, www.op.nysed.gov---where one can click ‘consumer’ and then ‘complaint form’). This agency has the authority to revoke, suspend, and fine a veterinarian. One can also sue a veterinarian for monetary damages (money) although it can be difficult to prove malpractice without an expert witness (such as another veterinarian) who is willing to testify that the veterinarian acted incompetently. Lawsuits are also brought against manufacturers of products.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Vet killed my dog with a bad injection.
Q:

I took my 1-year and 10 month old dog to his vet for his shots that he gets all the time and has no side effect with them. So this day they decied to give him a shot called Pro Heart 6. They never asked me about it, they never told me the side effects, and they never told me to sign anything about that shot. I always gave him the pill. So they gave my dog his regular shots and the Pro Heart 6 and moments later he got sick, and then died 4 hours later. Then I read that Pro Heart was taken off the market at one time and put back on with a warning lable. It also said it should not be given with other meds. What can I do?

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Without a necropsy it may be difficult to know for sure what caused your dog’s death. Overdoses of any of the shots can be considered along with giving them at the same time. The NYS Education Department, Office of the Professions, accepts complaints against veterinarians (800-442-8106, www.op.nysed.gov---where one can click ‘consumer’ and then ‘complaint form’). This agency has the authority to revoke, suspend, and fine a veterinarian. One can also sue a veterinarian for monetary damages (money) although it can be difficult to prove malpractice without an expert witness (such as another veterinarian) who is willing to testify that the veterinarian acted incompetently. Lawsuits are also brought against manufacturers of products.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What rights do I have if a breeder decided to keep dog promised to us?
Q:

My girlfriend and I were planning on getting two pug puppies. We have been keeping in good contact with the owners, they have been sending us updates. They told us today that they got attached to one of the two and will not be giving us her. My girlfriend is extremely upset about it. It is from a family, so I am not sure if we have any rights to the dog. Advice?

A:

There are so many homeless animals just waiting to be adopted. Visit your local animal shelter or contact a rescue organization. It is unclear from your question whether you already have a valid contract for the purchase of the dogs. If a valid contract exists, one can sue to enforce the contract. Such lawsuits can be time consuming and costly and there is no guarantee of success.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it a crime to not return a foster dog to a rescue?
Q:

Is it a crime to not return a foster dog to a rescue? I have no written contract with the rescue and have not received any support for the dog in over 30 days. The rescue now wants the dog back but I don't want to return the dog. They refuse to let me pay the adoption fees for the dog.

A:

Fostering, rather than adopting, generally refers to a temporary arrangement. ‘Ownership’ of the animal is usually not transferred to the foster ‘parent.’ However, when there is no written agreement between parties regarding whether the arrangement is for fostering or adopting, there is less clarity, particularly if the parties have a different understanding of the terms of the agreement. It could constitute theft to refuse to return an animal that one does not ‘own’ to the animal’s rightful ‘owner.’ The police often do not get involved unless the theft is apparent (for example, a dog is stolen from a yard or pet store), but these situations are considered by the police on a case by case basis. A rescue organization can also commence a lawsuit (civil action)  for the return of an animal it believes is being wrongfully withheld.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I give away my dog if I have a contract with a breeder?
Q:

Let's say I purchased an animal under contract. A month goes by and I realize I can't fully take care of the animal like it deserves. I wouldnt want to give it back to the breeder, but my friend says he would like to take the animal and care for it.
Now what terms in a contract would make me not be able to give my animal away to my friend?
Would my contract I signed, get put forth towards the 'New owner' or does he have full rights without a breeder all in his business with my contract with the breeder?

A:

One should carefully review the terms of animal adoption and sales contracts before signing them. These contracts usually state the rights and remedies of the parties. Some of these contracts contain provisions which require an adopter or purchaser to either return an animal he/she no longer wishes to keep or to get permission from the breeder or adoption agency before re-homing the animal. Lawsuits may be brought for breaches of a contract.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Vet treated my kitten, and gave me back a full grown cat!
Q:

I recently took my baby 9 month old cat to the vet. They told me that he had to get surgery done because he had something stuck in his stomach. I kept calling the vet to see if I could at least go see my baby but they would not let me. A few days later when I finally got the ok to pick up my kitty, the vet returned me a full grown cat! This cat roaming my house tonight is not my baby. This cat is huge, heavy, and has a different butt color and fur. I want to know what can I legally do besides file a complaint? He also smells a lot like urine and meows differently. I want my money and baby back!

A:

If you have not already done so, I suggest you contact your veterinarian and let him/her know that the cat that he/she gave you is not your cat. One could often prove the identity of a cat through photographs, records from another veterinarian, adoption or sales receipt that would show age, etc. If one believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue for the return of the animal. If one believes fraud or theft is involved, one can ask the police to intervene. Complaints can be made with the veterinary licensing board (In Illinois, it is the Illinois Veterinary Licensing and Disciplinary Board, www.idfpr.com/Admin/Complaints.asp),  and private veterinary associations.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Senior citizen over-charged for euthanizing cat.
Q:

I'm writing on behalf of an elderly woman living in a subsidized seniors residence. She was charged over $600 to euthanize her cat. I was shocked when she told me and I'd like to know if anything can be done. Can she contact someone to get $ back for being overcharged?

A:

It is unclear if other services were also performed prior to the cat being euthanized (to treat an illness or injury) and after (cremation, for example). Contacting the service provider (which I assume was a veterinarian) to question the charge would be reasonable. U.S. Veterinary licensing agencies tend not to get involved in fee disputes. However, private veterinary associations sometimes try to help resolve such disputes.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Father gave my cat away without consent.
Q:

My father gave my cat away to an adoption agency in MIchigan without my consent. I called the agency and they mentioned that my cat has already been sent to a foster home. Being that this was done without my knowledge and that I had sole ownership of the cat is there anything I can do to get my cat back? 

A:

Proving sole 'ownership' can sometimes be a challenge when a family member relinquishes an animal. When one believes his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, a lawsuit can be brought to try to get an animal returned. Sometimes adoption agencies will more readily agree to return an animal if the animal has not been adopted yet. After adoption, the situation gets much more complicated.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Estranged Husband Gave My Dogs to SPCA.
Q:

My estranged husband was caring for my 2 dogs while I was visiting my daughter out of town. While in his care be signed them over to the SPCA, as soon as I found out I contacted the SPCA mgr and he told me even though I have ownership akc registry, and vet records that they were adopted out and I could do nothing. I've pleaded with this mgr on several occassions to get my male back but he refuses. I even offered to buy the adoptees a pet of their choice in returns of my dogs to no avail, he refuses to help me or give me any info. My female dogs was dropped by her adoptees to the animal control and because they're both chipped I was able to get her back 2 weeks later. She misses her brother as well. I don't know what else to do, I'm truly hearttbroken????

A:

Proof of ‘ownership” in the form of vet records and AKC registration may help in a court case, although courts will also consider who ‘owned’ the dog at the time the dog was given away. I suggest you retain an attorney in your area about the viability of a lawsuit. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Animal Rescue gave dog I was set to adopt to a foster family.
Q:

I was recently working with an animal rescue and was determined to be the lucky one to adopt this particular dog. Apparently, while they were the rescue that was coordinating the adoption for this particular animal, the pet was actually at another neighboring shelter about 4 hours away, being taken care of. They were going to transport her (the dog) up last weekend, but didn't deem her able to come due to some lingering kennel cough that she has been recovering from for several weeks now. Without telling my adoption coordinator they put her in a foster family and claim the foster family is unreachable.
Assuming they can find the foster family. Can they force them to give the dog back? I don't think they even realized I would have been willing to pick her up. I am working through another rescue organization and there is a bit of a telephone game going on.
I am also curious as to the relationship between rescues and shelters. If one particular person is designated the adoption coordinator, does that grant them any exclusivity to determine the future of the pet? The coordinators I've worked with have seemed to act like they had exclusive rights to obligate the best future for the pet.
Thanks for any insights. I'm somewhat devastated. The rescue had me buy name tags, and a lot of gear for this particular dog and told me about an hour before I was going to pick up the dog, that I couldn't.

A:

Usually foster ‘parents’ are reachable so I wonder if you are getting the full story. Also, usually foster ‘parents’ have agreements with the rescue group or shelter who placed the animal with them to return animals upon demand/request of the shelter or rescue group, but the rights of the parties would depend on the actual agreement. The term ‘adoption coordinator’ is generic and the job description and rights of such person would depend on his/her employment or volunteer agreement. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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