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All Q&As
by
Elinor molbegott

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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
 
Dog given away while impaired.
Q:

I was recently on prescribed antidepressant and succumbed to severe side effects. I have an M.D. as well as a PsyD's letter stating the antidepressant I was taking was contradicive to another prescribed medication, causing severe mood swings and an extreme altered state of mind. I had given my dog to my ex. Now that my mind is back on track I want my dog back. Under normal circumstances I would never have parted with him...EVER. Do I have any legal standing?


A:

I hope you are feeling much better. Generally when a person gives an animal away, such person has no further rights to that animal unless there was an agreement stating otherwise. Contracts can sometimes be voided based on the incapacity of one or more of the parties, although courts are reluctant to void contracts without significant justification. In one noteworthy case, for example, the court refused to void a contract (written on the back of a bar check pad) for the sale of a farm, where the person who tried to void the contract (the seller) stated that he was “high as a Georgia pine” when signing it. Nonetheless, the facts of each case to void a contract based on incapacity differ and thus the results can and do differ too.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Am I entitled to a refund from rescue league?
Q:

I purchased a puppy from a rescue. The dog was said to be house trained and neutered. I paid and picked up the dog. The puppy was constantly urinating in the house and outside. We took the dog, after 2 days, to a vet and they said it might have some form of kidney disease, probably not a UTI. We gave him medicine for 2 days , but nothing changed. We made arrangement to return the dog and the company said their vet said the puppy was fine and there will be no refund. What could be our "next step" ?



A:

It can often take several days or even longer for animals to adjust to their new home. During this adjustment period, there could be lapses in housebreaking and animals may appear anxious but that is perfectly understandable and usually changes once the animals feel secure and loved in their new home. Two days of medicine usually does not correct most health problems. Adopters who believe that they are entitled to a refund can sue. Courts will consider the terms of the adoption agreement and other relevant evidence in determining whether the adopter should be awarded any compensation.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Friend is threatening to take dog back.
Q:

Hello, I was given a dog by a friend who needed to find her a home.  I have had her for 10 months and now he is threatening to take her back.  Can he do that?  I have a text from him saying she is mine and that he would not take her. I don't want to lose her.

A:

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


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can the vet hold my dog because I can't afford to pay bill in full?
Q:

Can the vet hold my dog because I can't afford to pay bill in full?

A:

Alabama law provides that veterinarians have a lien on animals left in their care under contract with the animal’s owner, for payment of charges due and “shall have the right to retain such animal until said charges are paid.” This lien law also provides that if the charges are not paid within 10 days after demand (in person or by registered or certified mail), the veterinarian is authorized to sell the animal. There is also an animal abandonment law in Alabama which provides that animals placed in the custody of a veterinarian and not claimed for a period of more than 10 days after written notice (by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to the owner or owner’s agent) shall be deemed abandoned and may be turned over to the local humane society or pound or sold to collect the lien. Many states have similar laws.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Did I give up the rights to my dog?
Q:

I had a dog for 12 years prior to my now ex girlfriend moving in. She moved in for less than a year and decided to take my dog when I was at work one day after we broke up. I begged and pleaded, left messages to try to get the dog back and no response. After a few days and under the emotional distress I was in, I left a voice mail saying she could just have the dog if she thinks he's better off with her and not with myself and my 2 kids. Maybe she would respond back at least or feel bad about taking him and do the right thing. Did I give up my rights to the dog now by telling her that, or do I have a shot in court to get my dog back? I have all the vet bills, adoption papers, and bill of sale for the dog that I have owned for 12 years prior to her moving in.

A:

It is difficult to predict the outcome of a case, particularly when parties to a dispute often present conflicting evidence. Generally when roommates and ex-boyfriends/girlfriends split, they get to leave with what they brought, including animals. However, this general “rule” is not absolute since sometimes, for example, an animal is given away (which a court could construe that you did). Also, occasionally, but not routinely, a court will consider the best interests of the animal. In a Minnesota case involving a divorced couple, the appellate court, in upholding the trial court’s decision to award the couple’s dogs to the wife, stated that the  “the trial court can award the dogs to respondent in part on evidence of mistreatment of the dogs.”
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Friend threatening police action to get dog back.
Q:

My friend asked me to take his dog because he couldn't feed him and he was going to be charged with a fine because it was tied up outside in the cold snow without somewhere warm. I took him and now trying to find somebody that can take care of him and because of that he is threatening to have cops come and take him back. Can he do that?


A:

Generally when a person gives away his/her animal, he/she has no further rights to that animal, unless there was an agreement providing for such rights. However, sometimes there is a dispute regarding whether an animal was given away, sold, abandoned, or temporarily boarded. Usually the police will not get involved in such disputes (but in the event that they do, it is helpful to have an attorney available to intervene). While courts generally decide pet custody cases based on property rights, there have been cases where courts have considered the interests of the animal, particularly if one party has mistreated/neglected the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I surrendered my dogs under false pretenses.
Q:

I was given a 30 day notice to vacate... The first thing I thought of was my two dogs and what was going to happen to them. I had spoken to an owner of a animal sanctuary. She had told me she had a home for both my dogs and we had to move fast. So feeling rushed and panicked I agreed. She sent a guy to pick them up the next day. I was very sad but happy they could be together and have a nice home as the lady told me.... But this was not the case she stuck my babies in a shelter that was against what she told me and I feel this was very wrong what can I do???


A:

State Attorney General offices generally have departments/bureaus that investigate allegations of consumer fraud. Have you considered going to the shelter to try to adopt the dogs?
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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
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