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All Q&As
by
Elinor molbegott

Great tips and advice from the Animal League Experts.

Below are Q&As on all topics 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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Legal Category
 
Former foster refuses to return dog to Rescue.
Q:

One of our volunteers is fostering one of our Rescue's dogs. She has failed to respond to the 20 approved applicants interested in this dog. She finally responded to us that she is no longer interested in working with our Rescue organization. We asked her if she will chose an adopter from the many applicants, or adopt this dog herself and she will not respond. We have been covering all this dog's medical bills, and the dog has been listed on Petfinder under our name for months. As a registered charity devoted to saving dogs, we prefer not to spend money on lawyers. What are our options? This is NYS - will the police help? It's essentially theft, is it not?

A:

The police will typically not get involved in pet fostering and pet custody disputes. New York's animal stealing law (section 366 of the Agriculture and Markets Law) covers situations such as enticing or seizing animals out of their homes or enclosures or from a person. When the police will not intervene, people can commence a civil action for the return of an animal they believe is being wrongfully withheld. Although it is preferable to have attorney representation in these cases, it is not required. Court clerks are sometimes very helpful. Of course, in order to prove that a person is wrongfully withholding an animal, a written agreement specifying the rights and obligations of the parties would be useful. Often when there is only a verbal agreement, the disputing parties have different versions of the agreement.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My ex wants to have shared custody of my dog.
Q:

I rescued my dog from a home that couldn't care for him. His microchip and vet records are all in my name. I just broke up with my boyfriend and now he wants to take me to court for custody. I do not have adoption papers as there was no fee, I simply brought him home. Does he have any ground? He has paid a vet bill here and there. He says he wants to see my dog on a schedule like a child, and if I dont agree and let him he will take me to court. Any advice? This is really stressing me out as he is only 4 and I cannot maintain communication with an ex for the next 8 years over my dog.

A:

Generally when roommates split, each can leave with possessions that they bought (although complications can arise with “shared” animals and when one person alleges that the animal was a gift). A person who believes he/she has “ownership” rights to an animal can sue to try to get the animal returned or “visitation” (although some courts have said they would not order pet visitation or enforce a pet visitation agreement). For example, one NY court stated, “The extension of an award of possession of a dog to include visitation or joint custody—components of child custody designed to keep both parents firmly involved in the child's life—would only serve as an invitation for endless post-divorce litigation, keeping the parties needlessly tied to one another and to the court...” Sometimes in pet custody cases, courts have also considered the best interests of the animals. Good luck!


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get replacement AKC papers?
Q:

Cousin give me a pair of AKC boxers, however he said he can't find the papers for the dogs. How can I get those AKC papers?

A:

Contact AKC. There is a procedure for replacement paperwork. Next time consider adopting a homeless animal from a shelter/rescue.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Whose cat is it?
Q:

This girl couldn't take care of her cat due to the fact the apartments do not allow cats. She gave me her cat and she dropped him off at my house. I decided to rename him and she got upset. She threatened to take him away since she has all his paperwork and the microchip information. She does not have a place qualified to take care of him.

A:

Generally when a person gives away or sells his/her animal, such person has no further rights to that animal. Having the agreement in writing can help to avoid future conflicts regarding the animal�s �ownership.� Microchip, license, and other registration and veterinary records should be changed when �ownership� changes. Even if they are not changed, an animal�s microchip and license registration and other indicia of �ownership� do not always prove �ownership,� particularly when there is evidence that subsequent to registering the animal�s microchip or license, the animal was sold, given away, or abandoned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can be done for abandoned dog?
Q:

My cousin has been caring for a dog for 11 months without any financial compensations or reply to texts from the owners. The vet will not treat dog without documentation from owner. What can be done? Is this a case of abandonment?

A:

First, try another veterinarian. People who board animals are responsible for providing the animals with humane treatment and can be prosecuted for neglecting animals in their care. It would be up to a court to definitively decide whether under the facts and circumstances the �owner� abandoned an animal. Sometimes this issue is addressed in the boarding agreement and sometimes by law (some states in addition to criminal animal abandonment laws have laws requiring veterinarians or others who board animals to give written notice to an �owner� that the animal will be deemed abandoned within a certain number of days). Hawaii�s criminal animal abandonment law states: �It shall be unlawful for the owner of any animal or any person in possession of an animal that belongs to another person to leave the animal without the intention of returning to it. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor.�


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Does new owner have to relinquish dog if they change mind?
Q:

Can a person give her dog away to someone else,then a month later decide they want it back? Does the new owner have to relinquish the dog back after it was given to her?

A:

Generally when a person gives his/her animal away, such person has no further rights to that animal unless there was an agreement stating otherwise.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What are my rights to keep dog I've been fostering?
Q:

Fostering a dog for a rescue, I never signed a contract or foster application. They are demanding dog back, been with me 2.5 months. Dog taken from shelter under rescue name, but I never signed anything. What are my rights? Do I have to give her back? Rescue never contacted me until Thursday, dog not fixed, month behind in heartworm prevention. But they say I am unfit. Need help!! Scared for the dog! She is loved!! I need to know my rights. They don't even have my address. Threatening me with the police.

A:

Typically an animal�s foster care �parent,� as compared to an adopter, does not �own� the fostered animal. Usually a foster care agreement will contain provisions regarding the rights and responsibilities of the parties, including, for example, who is responsible for providing the animal with necessary veterinary care. It is unclear why the rescue suddenly believes you are unfit, unless its understanding was that you, not the rescue, were responsible for getting the dog spayed or neutered and giving the dog heartworm medicine. It is unclear why a rescue would give possession to a foster care �parent� without having a correct address or following up on the dog�s care for more than two months. It is difficult to say if the police will get involved. They typically will not if they believe there is just a pet custody dispute, but they might if they are convinced an animal was stolen. Sometimes individuals and organizations commence civil lawsuits for the return of an animal that they believe is being wrongfully withheld. How a court decides who �owns� an animal depends on the evidence presented (such as, was the animal only fostered and not adopted, did the rescue abandon the animal, is the animal being neglected or otherwise mistreated). I hope the dog is doing well.< /p>
Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

Neighbor turned cat in to animal shelter.
Q:

My HOA states that cats must be supervised outside. However in the past 4 months that I have lived here I have seen 6+ cats out and about. I let my 14 year old cat out first thing in the morning and then he comes back in before I leave for work; however one day, he didn't. The HOA president took my cat to the local animal shelter. The staff there questioned him about bringing the cat in and stated they felt sure the cat belonged to someone in the neighborhood. He stated he thought so too but didn't know who. He is my next door neighbor. Does he have the right to turn in my cat?

A:

I hope your cat is safe and sound now! Pet cats unsupervised outside can get run over, lost, mistreated, and the list goes on. The fact that other people in your HOA allow their cats outdoors unsupervised in violation of HOA rules does not make it right. People who find animals may bring them to local shelters. A person who intentionally steals a neighbor�s cat may face criminal charges depending on the circumstances, but that is less likely if the animal is brought to a shelter. Lost, stray, abandoned, and wandering dogs and cats are brought to shelters all of the time, many by caring people who find them and don�t want to leave them in the street. < /p>
Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

How can I track down adoption paperwork if shelter is no longer in business?
Q:

I am trying to recover the original adoption papers from the place I adopted my dog, but they are no longer in business. Is there somewhere they were required to file the documents, ie, the state, county ect? My signature is on the adoption papers and I need that document as proof of ownership, trying to prepare for court to get my best friend back, please help

A:

While there are laws throughout the country requiring certain animal shelters (such as government funded shelters) to maintain statistics on animals adopted, returned to �owners,� euthanized, or transferred to another shelter/rescue, etc., I am not aware of laws requiring animal adoption applications and agreements to be filed with a governmental agency (although municipal shelters may be subject to freedom of information laws [FOIL] and records can sometimes be accessed through a FOIL request).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What legal action can I take to get dog back from my aunt?
Q:

I had to give my dog away because we were moving. My aunt took him under the agreement that if she didn't want him that he be returned to me. She got a puppy and gave my dog to someone else. I asked for him back and she said that she has him back now and is refusing to give him back to me. I have his papers, vet documents, and eye witnesses of the agreement that was said along with messages stating that she gave him away and the agreement. What legal actions can I take to get my dog back if she refuses to give him to me after telling her I would get my lawyer involved?

A:

People who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can sue (replevin action) for the return of their animals. However, generally when a person gives his/her animal away, such person has no further rights to the animal unless there was an agreement providing otherwise (and verbal agreements can be difficult to prove). In any event, it sounds as if at least for now your aunt has complied with the verbal agreement since you indicated that she now has the dog. In the future, consider your pets in your moving plans. Regrets do not equal rights and it is often very difficult to undo one�s actions. I hope the dog is doing well.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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