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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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Neighbor falsely accused my dog of attacking their dog.
Q:

I have 3 dogs. I was in my backyard with my daughter and we heard a dog yelping next door. I only had 1 dog outside but she had run into the house to get water. Then we ran to the neighbors fence but we're unable to see what happened. I went next door to make sure the neighbors heard the distress. She came out on the phone and said her one eyed dog broke the back of their other dog. The couple were involved in getting a vet and I left. The next day they are accusing one of my dogs of jumping the fence attacking and jumping back over the fence? My dogs can't jump the fence and I was outside. Why would they lie and what if they sue and lie?

A:

Hopefully, the court will be able to determine the truth based on all of the evidence presented.  Depending on one’s policy, homeowners insurance companies will defend such lawsuits and pay damages, if any are awarded.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My ex took my dog.
Q:

My ex took my dog and left while I was at work. The dog was a birthday gift to me on my birthday last year. The adoption paper is in my name. Which courts determine custody of the animal? I went to small claims and that's only for money. I want the dog back.

A:

IWhen one’s animal is wrongfully withheld, a replevin action (an action for the return of property) is sometimes commenced. In NY, the Supreme Court handles replevin actions as do some lower courts, such as the NYC Civil Court.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I keep my friend's cat?
Q:

Hi, I have a questionI can't seem to get answered no matter where I check! I am good friends with a girl I met in 2004.  Well, we have been good friends up until now, it looks like our friendship might be ending.  The point is I have her cat and have been taking care of it with the utmost love and vet care possible for 6 years.  She let me un-officially have her cat while she was living in Virginia in 2008. I have always felt that she would eventually want her cat back someday, I strongly believe this, but she has never explicitly or officially told me this. She lives with her husband and 2 year old son in Virginia and they now also have two little dogs. I live alone and am retired, so I am able to give the cat tons of attention and love, and my place is much more peaceful than her place is since she has a family and other pets.  The cat is almost 11 years old and is definitely comfortable and used to being with me for 6 years.  If she demands I give the cat back do I have any legal right to continue to keep it, or will the court automatically say the cat should be given back to her just because she was the original owner, oh so long ago? I love this cat and she is older now and totally happy in a peaceful, loving environment!  Will I have to give her up if my friend wants her back?

A:

There is no way to predict the outcome of a pet custody dispute. Despite similarities, the facts of each pet custody case differ. However, when an animal’s ‘owner’ gives possession of the animal to a friend, the animal has resided with the friend for years, the original ‘owner’ has not paid boarding fees or expenses for the animal’s care (such as veterinary fees and food), a court could certainly find that the animal was given away or abandoned. Some courts also consider the best interests of the animal. In a NY case, the court in awarding custody of an elderly cat, stated: “Cognizant of the cherished status accorded to pets in our society, the strong emotions engendered by disputes of this nature, and the limited ability of the courts to resolve them satisfactorily, on the record presented, we think it best for all concerned that, given his limited life expectancy, Lovey, who is now almost ten years old, remain where he has lived, prospered, loved and been loved for the past four years.”
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My aunt won't give me back my dogs.
Q:

My aunt agreed verbally to care for my two dogs while I stressed and depressed by a difficult child custody battle. My rich ex has lured my 16 yr old daughter away with material goodies. Now that it is over she refuses to return the dogs and said she will file harassment charges if I don't stop bothering her.

A:

If one believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue to try to get the animal returned. Courts will try to determine who ‘owns’ the animal. Sometimes, courts will consider the animal’s best interests. When there is no written agreement, determining rightful ‘ownership’ can be very difficult since disputing parties often have a different recollection of the agreement.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I sue the vet for the cost of the dog he injured?
Q:

So I took my litter of 4 day old puppies to the vet to get their tails docked. The vet cut one of the tails off so far that there is literally no tail left. needless to say, it is now horribly infected and the puppy is probably going to die. I raise these dogs and they are very expensive, not to mention the fact that they are my babies. Can I sue the vet for the cost of the dog?

A:

I am very sorry to hear about your puppy. For future reference, please keep in mind that tail docking is a very painful procedure. Humane organizations and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) oppose tail docking when done for cosmetic purposes. One can sue a veterinarian for malpractice. In such a lawsuit one can seek reimbursement for the cost of the dog and other damages. Of course, it will be necessary to prove that the veterinarian acted improperly. One can also make a complaint with the state’s veterinary licensing board. In Wisconsin, the Department of Safety & Professional Services (http://dsps.wi.gov) investigates complaints against veterinarians and has the authority to reprimand, suspend, or revoke licenses, but does not mediate financial disputes.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I keep family dog in the family?
Q:

Hi, I have about a dozen questions involving the same thing. You see, there's a household issue. My brother and I live with our dad at home, and his girlfriend is threatening to move out. Our dog, Gizmo, is the family dog. To my brother, dad and I he's like family not a pet. Anyways, if she leaves I'm worried over the custody. I would be torn to pieces if we lose him. See, she pays for his vet expenses usually, but, I pay for his grooming expenses, taking him to the groomers for special bath treatment and nail trimming. What I am worried over is that, despite her saying in front of others and online, that he is my dog that he might be taken away. How do I legally make to where he is, in fact, my dog so he stays with the family?


A:

There is no one foolproof way of proving ownership but a combination of ‘evidence’ can be particularly helpful in the event there is a dispute that cannot be resolved out of court. For example, licensing a dog in one’s name is one indication of ‘ownership’ although alone it does not prove ‘ownership’ since generally all one needs to do is fill out a form and pay a license fee to get a license. Courts consider who purchased/adopted an animal, who is the animal’s primary caretaker, and who pays for the animal’s needs. Sometimes a court will consider the animal’s best interests as well. Often when one purchases, adopts or otherwise acquires an animal prior to a relationship, such person would get to keep the animal when the relationship ends. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule. For example, sometimes people acquire an animal and then sell the animal or give the animal to another person as a gift. You should speak with your father and make sure he understands how important your dog is to you.  If possible, people should enter into a written agreement stating who gets the animal in the event the people go their separate ways. Even this can get tricky since sometimes subsequent to the agreement the situation changes and the ‘non-custodial pet parent’ ends up becoming the animal’s primary caretaker.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog back from temporary foster home?
Q:

I had to temporarily give up my puppy while I was in the process of getting another home. I posted an ad about temporary foster. A woman replied asking to keep him permanently when the ad clearly said temporary foster. I was in a desperate situation at the time and wanted my dog safe. I feel as though she did take advantage of my situation. Before I left my dog her husband mentioned me getting him back which was the whole idea. I have all his papers everything in my name still making payments on him. I want him back, but the woman refuses to give him to me.

A:

If an individual believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, he/she can sue to try to get the animal returned. The court will consider the evidence and determine who ‘owns’ the dog. Sometimes these matters can be resolved through respectful communication between the parties.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get a police escort to get my dog?
Q:

I brought my puppy over to my old friends house and we got into an arguement, and she now refuses to give me my puppy back and says its no longer mine now. Can I get a police escort to take me to get it back?

A:

One can ask for a police escort if one believes that his/her dog is being wrongfully withheld. However, quite often when the disputing parties know each other the police are reluctant to intervene and instead suggest that the matter be handled through a civil action. This means that the person who does not have possession of the animal sues to try to get the court to order that the animal be returned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Veterinarian injected my dog with wrong medication.
Q:

I took my dog to the vet clinic, his usual clinic, and the veterinarian that saw my dog gave him an injection for diabetic dogs and my dog is NOT diabetic, he just got neutered and was in huge pain. So that same vet injected him and he became very abnormal. His blood dropped super low and she told me to take him to the ER so I did and he has to stay there 24 hrs :'( and he is hurting they have him in tubes ..wat legal options do i have if he gets better or not..please HELP!


A:

I hope that your dog makes a very speedy recovery. If a pet ‘parent’ suspects veterinary malpractice or negligence, he/she can sue. If one proves his/her case, a court may award veterinary and other expenses incurred as a result of the malpractice/negligence, including, for example, the veterinary bills stemming from the malpractice and what was already paid in veterinary fees for the negligent treatment. If an animal dies, one may also be able to recover for the value of the dog. While some courts will consider ‘replacement’ value or market value (how much the dog could have sold for in the ‘open market’), other courts will also consider the intrinsic value of the companion animal to his/her ‘owner.’ Courts in determining intrinsic value have taken into consideration sentimental value, special training, and/or services the animal provided. At times, a court will consider loss of companionship but that is not common.

In a California case, the “owner” of a dog who died alleged that the veterinarian  misdiagnosed the dog and gave the dog unnecessary treatments that resulted in the dog’s death. While the jury found that the market value of the dog was $10, it awarded the dog’s ‘owner’ $30,000 for the special value of the dog to his ‘owner’ and another $9,000 for overpayment to the veterinarian.

One can also make a complaint with the state veterinary licensing board. For information on filing a complaint, contact the California Veterinary Medical Board, www.vmb.ca.gov. Every state has a veterinary licensing board that reviews complaints against veterinarians.


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

Hi, my dog has no papers and was given away without my permission when I was not home. I want to know how can I get my dog back when there's no papers for him. Please, oh please, be able to help me!

A:

It is unclear who gave your animal away and why. More specifically, it is unclear if the person who gave your animal away considered himself or herself the dog’s ‘owner.’ There are many ways to prove ‘ownership.’ Many people get their companion animals from sources that do not generate paperwork (from a friend, found stray, etc.) but still have veterinary records, photos, license, microchip---something to show that they have shared their lives with an animal. Of course, these indicia of ‘ownership’ do not definitively prove ownership but are factors that a court would consider if the case is litigated. Courts will also consider whether the animal’s ‘owner’ subsequently gave the animal away or sold or abandoned the animal. Sometimes in deciding who should get an animal the court will consider the animal’s best interests but one should not count on that.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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