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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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Pet store concern
Q:

My husband and I just bought a kitten from a local pet shop that stated he had his shots, neutered, tests for cancer and a micro chip placed, but my concern is the kitten looks like he's 6 weeks old, very skinny and has visible ear mite infection. I'm taking him to our local vet tonight, is there anyway I can get my money back and still keep the kitten case of any more problems arise or any of the paperwork of veterinary care is false?

A:

Several states, including Pennsylvania, have laws which provide recourse to purchasers of sick dogs (and some states include cats too) from a pet dealer (definitions of pet dealer vary but typically would include pet stores). Pennsylvania’s pet sale law applies to the sale of dogs and provides that if within 10 days of purchase the dog dies or is clinically ill (as determined by a veterinarian), the purchaser may, among other remedies, retain the dog and receive reimbursement from the seller for reasonable veterinary fees incurred in attempting to cure the dog (but not more than the purchase price). Purchasers of sick cats may still have recourse, even without a law which specifically addresses sales. For example, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) provides purchasers of goods (including animals) from merchants (would typically include pet stores) remedies if the animal was sick (unmerchantable) at the time of sale. In fact, the UCC does not contain some of the rigid time limitations as provided for in some pet sale laws. Deceptive sales practices, such as knowingly misrepresenting an animal’s health and/or providing purchasers with false documentation about an animal, could also result in criminal charges, fines, and possibly revocation of licenses. Complaints about deceptive/fraudulent sales practices can generally be made to a state’s Attorney General’s office, District Attorney, and Consumer Affairs Departments. If one suspects animal neglect, the police and SPCA should be contacted, as well as any other entity in the municipality that enforces animal abuse laws. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Gave away dog and want it back
Q:

Recently I had an argument with my on again/off again boyfriend. Unfortunately my stress got the best of me and I gave my dog to him. I realize it was a very bad decision and have asked him to return the dog to me. The local police have told me this is a civil matter and I should take him to court. Is this a small claims matter. Please help as I feel my dog could be in harms way with this man who drinks and get violent. Thanks.

A:

Usually when an individual gives his/her companion animal away, he/she has no further legal rights to that animal. While most Small Claims Court cases are for money, some Small Claims Courts (depending on the jurisdiction) have the authority to consider replevin actions (for the return of property/animals). People considering a replevin action should check with their local Small Claims Court to ascertain if they handle replevin actions. If they do not, there are other courts that will. Animal abuse/neglect complaints should be made to the police, local SPCA, and/or other entity that enforces animal cruelty complaints in the area where the mistreatment is taking place. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Lost dog
Q:

I lost my dog and later found out he was at the pound they quickly had him adopted and i am desperately trying to get him back but they won't tell me whom they gave him too or will do anything to help me get him back

A:

Lawsuits for the return of an animal who is being wrongfully withheld may be brought. However, typically if a shelter holds an animal for the time period required by law (these time periods vary throughout the country) and the animal’s “owner” does not redeem the animal during this time, the animal’s “owner” loses rights to the animal and the shelter is allowed to place the animal in a new home. The reverse is also true. If the shelter releases the animal for adoption before the “owner” redemption period is over, the “owner” would normally still have rights to the animal. If the animal was identified (for example, wearing a dog license or ID tag), the laws in many areas require the shelter to notify the animal’s “owner” of the animal’s location and procedure for redemption.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Roommate left dog
Q:

My fiancee and I rent a home and we have a roommate that rents the upstairs of the home. A month and a half ago our roommate just up and left. Didn't tell us were he was going or when he'd come back. Didn't ask us to ask care of hs dog either. His dog would just roam around upstairs peeing and poking on the floor. Was not left with neither food ir water and was chewing up everything. So we started taking care of her. He sent a text telling my fiancee that he wanted my fiancee to have her. And now our roommate says he's coming back to get her. But he obviously can not take care of her. We do not want to give her back. Do we gave rights to her now?

A:

Generally when a person gives away or abandons an animal, such person has no further rights to that animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Ownership of Abandoned Cat
Q:

I've fed and sheltered an abandoned cat for 12 months. Her previous owners left the apartment complex and I took her in. 

The managers of this complex are telling me that I can't claim ownership of her because "she's not yours". They say she's a stray. They have told me they are going to take her to a shelter tomorrow. 

What can I do? 

I have strong emotive bonds of attachment with the cat and the whole situation is very upsetting.

A:

Managers of an apartment complex generally do not have the right to remove a cat from a tenant’s apartment without the tenant’s consent simply because the managers believe the cat is a “stray." To limit an apartment manager’s access to a cat, the cat’s “owner” should keep his/her cat indoors in the apartment, and not let the cat roam outdoors. If the cat is outdoors and removed, promptly check with local shelters. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Fostering 2 dogs
Q:

We are fostering 2 dogs for the past month applied to adopt one and my mother the other. We were very excited as we were planning for the past month on keeping them, then emailed the rescue to see how the adoption process was going and they told us the dogs were adopted by other people. I stated how it was unfair that no one even told us that there were other applications in when we have been caring for them and making them apart of our family, and now they are saying we have to give them up. We never signed any forms while fostering. What can we do?

A:
Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Rights to keep a dog I purchased
Q:

I purchased a 5 year old chiwahwa from a posting on Craigslist. In the add the girl stated that she had multiple pets and needed them gone asap. She was asking 50 dollars for the dog which I paid for with no problem. she even processed to ask me to take the other dog she had so they remain together. I couldn't afford to do it. she stated that she was very attached to the little dog I bought and if I had problems she would take it back, her situation is changing and she is now harassing me to give her the dog back and refund my money. I told her I would think about it but it's been a month and my family really loves the dog. I told her no and she is saying get a lawyer, she will get justice. please offer advice!

A:

As I have said many times in this column, typically (but not every case is typical) when a person gives away or sells his/her animal, he/she has no further rights to that animal, unless the agreement provides for such rights. The lesson to be learned is to think very carefully about the decision to give away or sell an animal before, not after, doing so. Also, people should think very carefully about whether they have the time, ability, finances, etc. to provide an animal with a loving forever home prior to adopting or purchasing an animal. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Friend wont return my dog
Q:

my wife let her x friend watch her dog while she was homeless.then girl told her that when she got on her feet she could have her dog back.the girl has had the dog 15 months and wont return her the dog is very ill and my wife wants to get her to a vet my wife constantly visited her dog.she has all the ownership papers and vet records and licence.and this girl wont give her back,ger ear infection is so bad she is gonna go deaf.my wife needs to get her to the vet but the girl wont budge she is hindering the dogs health my x wife to be.is disabled and on a short income.the local police and dog officer wont help they keep saying its a civil matter even though my wife has shown all her proof.please what can she do before poor coca gets worse and hemmorages from the ears or goes deaf the infection is so bad that both her ears are totally closed she needs medical attention.my wife just cries and cries.she went there with police three times and they wont do anything

A:

The police often do not get involved in pet custody disputes, but they should investigate animal cruelty and neglect complaints. Animal cruelty/neglect is against the law in every state. Enforcement of these laws varies around the country. In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island SPCA has the authority to enforce animal cruelty/neglect laws (as do the police). 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
15 year old blue and gold macaw
Q:

I had to leave my blue and gold Macau with a friend until I was able to find a place that would allow her.she agreed to take care of her until I could get her. Now she will not return her to me.can she legally do that?

A:

When a pet-sitting agreement is not in writing and a pet custody dispute arises, disputing individuals often have different versions of the agreement. Typically, a pet- sitter does not gain “ownership” rights to the animal. However, depending on the facts a court could determine that an animal was given away or abandoned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Kittens taken away
Q:

Ok I had a few kittens out side but I mom cat has a caller and which means the kittens are mine right one day the people living next to me told me that the dogpound took my kittens but not the mom and thay killed them can I sue them bc thay didn't get my consent ?

A:

How tragic on so many levels. Proving “ownership” of unidentified kittens seized from outdoors is likely to be difficult. The monetary award in the event of success in such a lawsuit would probably not be substantial. All that said, animal control should make serious attempts to locate mother cats when taking kittens and should foster the animals until they are ready for adoption. I suggest that you get your cat spayed. Keeping unaltered cats outdoors adds to the already serious overpopulation of cats. Sadly, many kittens born outdoors do not survive and if they do, they often have to struggle to stay alive. Even after your cat is spayed, for her protection she should not be outdoors unsupervised. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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