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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
 
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
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
Legal Rights To A Surrendered Dog
Q:

My neighbors a little down the road from me owned this husky that always ran away to my house. for the last THREE YEARS. They recently agreed to let me adopt him. as they claimed they were moving to the city. I have had him for over 2 months. She refused to give me his papers but i have proof with vet bills and texts that she voluntarily surrendered the dog to me. She also refused transfer of ownership apon request. She decided to take the dog back,claiming she was voiding adoption because i was not properly caring for the dog. which i also have whitnesses and proof that he in fact was in the best care possible. he escaped out of there house came back to my place as per usual. This is his home. What legal grounds do i have to keep the dog. i now have evidential proof she was not properly taking care of the dog. 

A:

When  a pet "custody/ownership" dispute cannot be amicably resolved, sometimes the person who does not have possession of the animal commences a legal action for the return of the animal. Courts will consider the evidence presented to determine "ownership," including, for example, whether the animal was given away, sold, or abandoned. Courts may consider the best interests of the animal, particularly if there is evidence that one party neglected/abused the animal. If one suspects an animal is being neglected or abused, local law enforcement authorities should be contacted. Cruelty to animals is against the law in every state.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog was given away
Q:

My fiancee and I had a dog some things happened and we needed her aunt to watch our dog we stayed in contact for th whole 3 weeks she watched him. We went to pick him up today and she gave him away. She wony tr ll us to who didn't ask us or even bring it up to us. What can we do?

A:

An individual who believes that his/her animals are being unlawfully withheld or were unlawfully given away can sue for the return of the animals and/or for monetary damages (money). Certainly these cases get more complicated when the name of the person who has the animal is not known, but courts can order that such information be disclosed. One can also make a pet theft complaint with the police, although the police will usually not get involved in family disputes regarding pet “ownership.” 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Pet adoption from animal shelter
Q:

We found a Golden Retriever dodging cars on a busy street 9 days ago.  The dog did not have a collar and a local vet checked the dog and she was not micro chipped.  The dog was infested with fleas so we bathed her and treated her for the infestation.  She had an eye and ear infection, potentially pregnant, (or had been pregnant recently) had large callouses on her hind quarter from potentially laying in a cage or on concrete.  She also suffered a large seizure. We brought her to the county medical shelter for care.  No one claimed her so at the end of the week my husband and I legally adopted her.  We were told that she would have to stay at the shelter over the weekend until they could get her spayed.  

Late Saturday afternoon (a day after we legally adopted her) two people showed up claiming she was their dog.  We happened to be visiting the dog at the time.  They showed a vague picture of the dog and claimed it was the same dog.  They also said that the dog was five years old but three veterinarians previously claimed she was about two years old.  The people had no other proof this was their dog but the shelter went ahead and reversed the adoption.  

The shelter informed the owners that they would have to seek medical attention for her and that they would be following up.  The alleged owners left the dog in the shelter over the weekend because they didn't have their own personal identification with them.  They put the dog on another five day hold so that the alleged owners could come back with their id to claim the dog.

This dog is obviously neglected and mistreated.

Is it legal for the county to reverse the adoption?  Also, if so, shouldn't the shelter advocate for the dog by insisting the owners provide more than just a small picture of the alleged dog to prove ownership? (vet records, licensing, family pictures etc.)  And is it unreasonable for me to ask the shelter to do a home inspection prior to releasing the dog to these people? To confirm their address and make sure it is a safe environment for this dog?

A:

I suggest you check the language of the adoption agreement to see if it addresses this issue. Consult with an attorney in your area for further information. Typically (but there are exceptions) when the redemption period has expired, the original “owner’s” right to redeem is extinguished and the shelter can adopt out the animal to another person. Shelters often transfer possession of an animal to the adopter at the time an adoption agreement is signed. As you have seen, when the shelter adopts out an animal but still has possession of the animal when the original “owner” comes forth to claim the animal, the situation gets much more complicated. Lawsuits can ensue and the animal’s future will be in limbo, not a good situation for the shelter, the original “owner,” the adopter, or the animal. Nevertheless, if animal abuse/neglect is suspected and the animal was held for the legal time period, many shelters will not release the animal to the original “owner” and may contact law enforcement officers to make an animal abuse complaint. Whether a person will be prosecuted depends on the facts of each situation, e.g., when was the animal lost, do the animal’s health issues indicate that the animal was neglected while in the “owner’s” custody or could the animal's health problems resulted from being uncared for while lost. Shelters should get adequate proof of “ownership” before returning an animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Are the puppies legal to have?
Q:

I have a pitbull/boxer mix. She recently had puppies with a dog next door. Don't know the breed of dog. We're in trouble because our breed of dog is illegal on our reservation. DNR came & said I had to get rid of my dog & her puppies. But the puppies would be considered "mutts" wouldn't they? So they should be legal to have.

A:

It seems that not only are the puppies mix-breeds but so is your dog. Pit bull is defined differently in the various ill-advised breed ban laws. Denver’s law, for example, states: “A “pit bull” … is defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one (1) or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds…” Sometimes it can help to get a letter from a veterinarian indicating that the dog/puppy in question does not meet the definition of pit bull in the law affecting one's locality/reservation. A breed DNA test may also help. Worth noting is that more and more states and municipalities are recognizing that breed bans are inhumane and ineffective. In fact, many states have passed laws to prohibit municipalities from enacting or enforcing breed specific bans and some localities have repealed their breed bans, preferring to focus on non-breed specific dangerous dog legislation. I suggest you have your dog spayed and consult with an attorney in your area.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My ex stole my puppy
Q:

My ex attacked me, got arrested, released, came into my house with police escort when I wasnt home and took things including the 1 yr old puppy I bought. My room mate let them in and didn't notice the removal of my pet. I reported theft to police but they said it will have to be a civil suit and out of their hands. I want my puppy back! What are my options. I have no money for lawyers.

A:

Other than trying to find an attorney who will handle a case on a pro bono (free) basis, a person who cannot afford to pay an attorney can represent himself or herself (pro se). Court clerks can be helpful.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my cats back?
Q:

I gave my cats away to a family in Idaho because I was going to school. I want them back if possible. They are my babies. I plan on visiting them because the lady hasn't kept in touch and I'm worried about them. What are my rights if I want them back?

A:

They are not your babies anymore! When a person gives his/her animal away, such person typically has no further legal claim to that animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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