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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
 
Am I entitled to a refund for paying a vet bill for an animal I do not own?
Q:

If I have paid a vet bill for a cat I do not own, the owner was abroad and left the cat with no supervision, am I entitled to a refund from the owner for the bill?


A:

A court could rule that a pet “owner” must reimburse a caretaker for veterinary expenses incurred for the “owner’s” animal. Issues that might arise in such a lawsuit include the authority of the caretaker to incur the veterinary charges (for example, was the “owner’s”  consent obtained or even sought and was the animal so ill or injured that the failure to get the “owner’s” consent was reasonable under the circumstances). Important to note as well is that persons who have taken custody of an animal can be charged with neglect if they fail to provide adequately for the animal. Animal abandonment is also against the law and local law enforcement authorities should be notified when this occurs.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is a rescue liable for an animals behavior?
Q:

We wanted to bring a 3rd dog into our family.  We have a 13 year old male Jack Russell and 7 year old female rat terrier.  I went thru the process filling out application and paying the fee to take in a rescue. On the application it asked what would keep me from adopting the pet.  I wrote aggression.  I met the dog and introduced the dog to my two dogs and we took the rescue dog in.  Two week later the rescue killed our prescious rat terrier.  We are heart broken. Is rescue responsible for anything? Do they have any guidelines that are held to them?

A:

I am very sorry to hear about the death of your dog. Often adoption agreements provide that the shelter or rescue organization will not be liable for any harm or damage caused by the animal. There are so many variables that can contribute to an animal acting differently in a new home than at a shelter, rescue, pet store, or breeder. Unless there is evidence demonstrating that the adoption entity or seller knew about a dog’s dangerous propensities and failed to disclose it, it is unlikely that they will be held responsible for the dog’s subsequent behavior in a new home.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog given away without permission.
Q:

Can I sue or file a lawsuit against someone who gave my dog away without my permission, even though it happened several months ago? It's just been difficult and I haven't been able to try to sue the person in the past.

A:

An animal’s “owner” can sue a person who gave his/her animal away without permission. The lawsuit would typically be for the return of the animal and/or money. The statute of limitations (time within which a lawsuit must be commenced) varies based on the cause of action and other factors but typically exceeds several months (but notices of claim against a municipality often must be filed sooner). A court may consider whether the person who is alleging that his/her animal was wrongfully given away had abandoned the animal (thus possibly entitling  the person with whom the animal was abandoned to give the animal away). In some states, including California, there are laws which provide that animals shall be deemed abandoned when they are not retrieved from a veterinarian, kennel, or other animal care facility within a certain number of days after the animal was scheduled to be picked up. 
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Owner cannot provide a home for dog
Q:

My ex boyfriend has been admitted to hospital and left his dog with me for what was supposed to be 2 days, it's been 10 days so far. He does not own a house and has no where to bring him when released. I found dog a great home but ex refuses to sign ownership rights over to me. I have been caring for this lab but have 4 rescue pets of my own and cannot take on any more. This sweet dog is a year old and 85 lbs. This dog deserves a better life than what his owner can give him. What rights do I have?

A:

Generally, a person who agrees to care for a friend’s pet when the friend is in the hospital does not gain “ownership” rights to the animal. While under certain circumstances a court could determine that an animal who was not retrieved in a timely manner should be deemed abandoned, this is not likely to happen if the “owner” is in the hospital and thus unable to get the animal.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Pet sitting at an apartment complex.
Q:

Hi my question is that I'm pet sitting for my friend he's in the navy and his dog is a service dog. My apartment complex told me I counldn't pet sit here or that his breed was not allowed on the complex grounds. I'm getting reported for taking care of the dog, what can I do?



A:

There are several laws that require housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities who need assistance animals. An animal sitter who is caring for a disabled person’s assistance animal in the animal sitter’s apartment is not likely to be afforded protection under these laws. I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area who can review your lease and try to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to this situation until your friend returns.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Relinquishing rights to ownership of my dog.
Q:

I am giving away my pet dog to a friend, how do I make it legal to relinquish all my rights?

A:

Just as animal shelters utilize written adoption agreements, individuals who are giving away or selling their animals could/should spell out the terms of their transaction in a written agreement signed by both parties. A provision could be included which makes it clear that one party is relinquishing all rights to the animal.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can legal action be taken against a neighbor?
Q:

I'm involved with a cat rescue organization that recently became involved in a 14-cat rescue operation in which these animals were being kept in highly unsanitary conditions for several years after the property owner died.  My organization paid for the trapping/neutering/vaccinating of 13/14 of these cats, and rehomed most of them, as well as donating time and materials to set up a feeding/housing station while we rehomed them. A neighbor that was helping feed them grew impatient waiting for the last two to be taken to their new home (already set up and waiting for them) so she had them euthanized without telling my organization and without permission.  Can any sort of legal action be taken against her?


A:

There are laws providing for minimum hold times for animals at shelters before the animals can be placed for adoption or euthanized. These laws tend not to apply to “owner” surrendered animals (but local laws on this differ). A  person who unjustifiably caused an animal to be killed  could be prosecuted under animal cruelty laws (for example, a person who was not an animal's “owner” but represented himself/herself as such and surrendered the animal for euthanasia). The decision to make an arrest would normally be up to the police and local law enforcement authorities, including the SPCA in some counties, and the decision to prosecute would normally be up to the district attorney. A person/organization who is not the “owner” of the euthanized animal would probably not have standing in a case for monetary damages for the death of the animal against anyone, including, but not limited to, the person who brought the animal to be euthanized (but the reverse may be true if "ownership" could be established).
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I gave my dog away but its still registered to me.
Q:

Hi I need help. I gave my dog to a friend a week ago to have, as me and my partner split. I now want me dog back home. We all miss her so much but the person won't giver her back. The dog is registered to me and my address. Where do I stand and what do I do next ?



A:

Generally when a person gives his/her dog away, such person has no further rights to the animal, unless there is an agreement providing otherwise. While a dog license, registration, and microchip demonstrate “ownership,” they do not necessarily prove “ownership” all of the time. For example, a dog license, microchip, or other registration would not negate an act subsequent to the registration, licensing, etc., such as giving away or selling the dog. If litigated, courts would also consider evidence to determine whether an animal was given away, sold, or temporarily boarded.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog adopted from a neglectful rescue.
Q:

I found a beautiful dog, a husky that was a supposed rescue.  I contacted the organization and was quickly contacted about the adoption.  I was sent an application to fill out which was a standard template, and then I sent it back.  I was told the dog was being boarded at a kennel and that I could meet the dog there. 

Upon getting there, the place is surrounded by a chain link fence with a trailer/house on the right side and another fence separating the dogs.  You could hear what was probably hundreds of dogs behind this place, I cant say for sure, as the lady who came out to meet me said it was against the rules and she would bring the dog to me. 

Once she brought her out, the dog who has terrible social anxiety and most likely a history of abuse instantly jumped into my arms and bonded with me.  I wanted to bring her home that night.  They agreed to let me take the dog home even though the requirement of a home visit had not been fulfilled, I offered to pay the adoption fee that night to the boarder but was told not to.  

Upon getting the dog home she did well in settling in but I started to notice she wasn't feeling well.  She had a hot nose, a persistent hacking cough, continuous vomiting and diarrhea.  This went on for days.  I contacted them and told them I was concerned about kennel cough, and other possible infections and was taking her to my vet.  They called me back and told me not to take her to the vet, but instead to meet them at a gas station, where they would give me antibiotics for the dog. "Wait don't you want to come do the home visit?"  She replies; "No, I don't have time."

Anyway I reluctantly drove an hour away waited for them.  Two hours went by and without them showing. Finally, they called me back and said they were running late. I waited another 45 mins and finally they showed up.  They gave me a file on the dog which shows that she has only had two vaccinations: parvo, and kennel cough and nothing else. They assured me that it would be taken care of.  They get in the back of my car and before I realize what they are doing, they jab needle into the dogs back to do the microchipping. They miss and have to do it a second time..  The poor dog was in agony and I was just speechless.  They gave me a ziplock bag with pills in it and tells me to give the dog a dose daily to treat the kennel cough, gets in the car and leaves.
The next day they contact me and says that they wants the $300 adoption fee, and that the home visit isn't necessary, that I can just send pictures of my apartment.

I question where the money is going since this is a supposed non profit organization for rescue dogs, and since nothing had been done to help my dog why would I pay $300?  I never said I wasn't willing to pay, I simply questioned where the money would be put to use.  They flip out, and starts acting really unprofessional, calling me names, saying I was a terrible person, and that the adoption was cancelled and that she was coming to get the dog.


They continued to harassed me for a couple days and then another lady starts contacting me, stating she is on the "Board of Directors" for the rescue.  Another lie, I looked the lady up, she isn't even involved with the rescue, I assume she is a personal friend.   

Now I have a guy claiming to be an attorney emailing me, saying that I have to pay the $300, and get the dog neutered myself or they will File Suit Against me.

A:

If one suspects that animals are being abused or neglected, local law enforcement authorities should be contacted, such as SPCAs (societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals) and the police. In some areas, other law enforcement officers also investigate such complaints. With respect to adoption fees, most animal rescue groups provide good care to their animals and the adoption fee usually does not cover the amount of money spent by the rescue on an animal’s care prior to adoption (food, shelter, veterinary care, grooming, etc.). Typically a prospective adopter signs an adoption agreement and pays an adoption fee/donation prior to getting the animal. When this does not occur and a lawsuit is commenced by the rescue group for the adoption fee or for the return of an animal, the adopter runs the risk that a court will order the animal to be returned or the payment of the adoption fee, court costs, etc. I hope that the dog is doing well now!
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Stolen Bengal cat.
Q:

Hello, my Bengal cat was stolen by a neighbor of mine. They are refusing to return my cat to me. I've already got the police involved and they were unable to get my cat returned to me. They said there was nothing they could do and that I would have to take it to a small claims court. I just have some questions on what my rights are regarding my cat, and what I need to do to retrieve her back. Thank you.


A:

An individual who believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld can sue to try to get the animal returned.  Small Claims courts often only handle cases for money and not for the return of property (and animals) so it is important to check with one’s local Small Claim court regarding its jurisdiction prior to commencing a lawsuit. If the Small Claims court does not handle actions in replevin (for the return of property), other courts in the state will handle such cases.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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