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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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Do I have to pay my ex's parents for care taking and vet fees?
Q:

I was living with my ex and his mother and had to move to a different state a year and half ago. I had left my dog and cat at their house and was told by his mother I can pick her up whenever I am ready within the time needed. We remained in contact almost everyday until about two weeks ago. Within the year and a half I was told by my ex that his mother's other dog was attacking / mauling my dog on a monthly basis and was taken to the vet for stitches many times.

I sent an Email to his Father saying I want to plan to go pick up my dog next month and he is asking me to pay over 2,000 for Vet / care fees. I don't mind paying for my dogs food etc but something sounds wrong about me having to pay for those vet visits that the other dog had caused. She was tagged under my name 4 years ago and he recently re-tagged her under his name without my permission. I was also not told about any vet visits they had taken her to at all, I always did the inquiring.

A:

You first say that within the year and a half (that the dog was at your ex’s mother’s house), you were told by your ex that his mother’s dog was attacking your dog and was taken to the vet for stitches many times. You later say that you were not told about any vet visits. If you were told about the attacks, that information should have put you on notice that there would be veterinary expenses. Also, once you had knowledge that your dog was at risk, why didn’t you remove your dog? In any event, usually dogs and cats need to be seen by a veterinarian during the course of a year and a half so veterinary expenses should not be a surprise to you. On the other hand, it does not seem that this dog is well protected in her current environment. If you cannot reach an amicable settlement with your ex and his family, you can sue for the return of the dog. It is difficult to say how a court would decide such a case both in terms of who gets to keep the dog and to what extent you are responsible for the costs incurred in caring for the animals. For example, the court may decide that you owe for expenses in caring for the animals (unless there is a written agreement that states otherwise). It is possible a court could find that your ex’s family was negligent in caring for your dog and reduce the amount due. A court could decide that you abandoned your animals or that you gave them away as a gift. The court might decide that your ex and his parents are unlawfully withholding your dog. I hope the cat is doing well.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do I gain legal ownership of my dog?
Q:

My ex and I adopted a dog about a year ago. When we got him, he paid for the dog (so his name is on the paper work) and I paid for all the vet bills. Soon after we broke up, and since then the dog has been living with me. I pay for everything for him and he has had no contribution since. He has since been trying to threaten me with the fact that the dog is under his name and he can take him from me at anytime even though the dog hardly recognizes him anymore. He has a family at my house and considers it his home. He is my baby. How can I take legal action to stop the harassment before he ends up trying to take my dog out of spite. The only person he would be hurting is the dog. My ex is very unstable and has lots of problems with courts/drugs/etc. I really don't want to lose my dog, but I am even more concerned about his safety. PLEASE HELP!

A:

You can try to get an order of protection, although I cannot say whether a court would issue an order of protection based on the facts you presented. You should consult with an attorney in your state. More and more states have laws that include pets in orders of protection. Illinois law states, for example, that a court can “Grant the petitioner the exclusive care, custody, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence or household of either the petitioner or the respondent and order the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbid the respondent from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.”


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What is my next step for the return of my stolen pony?
Q:

I rescued a mare in 2011 and trained her. Assisted her start 2013(January). Organized lease March 10, 2013. Gave lady interested a contract. Told her to sign and send payment. She said she would within a few days, then asked for pony's address to quote a shipper price for pony. I gave her it and then a week later with no payment and no contract signed, she told me she had picked pony up from the property. A few days later she came back saying she had handled the mare and the mare was WILD (untrue, I trained the mare). She told me to lower price and then she would sign. I said okay I don't care just sign as this is illegal, you stole my pony. She now told me she won't sign and told me to come pick up the pony - she will send address (she still hasn't sent the address). I don't have time to drive 5 hours up coast to move a pony that was stolen. I told her put the pony back where it was within 3 days. No answer. What is my next step? Already consulted with police and they are not helping at all (I tried).

A:

I certainly hope the pony is getting proper care. If the police will not intervene, I suggest you try to obtain the location of the pony and go pick her up or at least contact a humane society in the area where the pony is located to ask that they check on her (of course, that is assuming you get the address). A lawsuit to get the pony returned may be your remaining option if the police won’t get involved or the woman won’t give you the pony’s location. However, a lawsuit will likely take more time (and money) than efforts to get the address of the pony’s location from the woman and driving five hours to get the pony.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Who may legally perform a spay or neuter procedure?
Q:

Is there anyone besides a licensed veterinarian who is legally permitted to perform spaying or neutering of dogs in the state of New York?

A:

According to NYS Rules and Regulations, a veterinary technician may assist in surgical procedures in the physical presence of a licensed veterinarian. For further information, contact the NYS Department of Education, Office of the Professions. This agency licenses veterinarians and veterinary technicians.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My pit bull was attacked and now we're being sued - what can we do?
Q:

Hello, I Really Need Help. I Just Need To Know What We Should Be Doing To Stay Proactive About This Situation & Keep Within The Law. My Boyfriend's Pit bull Comes To My Duplex A Lot And The Dog Downstairs Is Very Territorial. So we Only Take Her Out When The German Shepherd Mix Isn't Out. Well, My Neighbor Didn't Check To See If We Were Outside And The Dogs Scuffled. And Now They Are Claiming She Had To Stay Overnight At The Hospital And Want Us To Pay The Bill For The Hospital And For Her Missing Work. But Our Pit Wasn't The Aggressor AT ALL. Their Dog Has Always Been Territorial With EVERY Dog That Comes Over, And WE are Especially Careful Because Of It. Can They Legally Do Anything? And What Should We Be Doing To Defend Ourselves. I Don't Want Us To Pay For This Bill For Injuries That They Won't Show Us And Certainly Not For Her Missing Work. I'm Just Scared Because Everyone HATES Pits. Even though It Was HER Dog I Feel Like We Won't Have A Chance. Thanks For Any Advice you Can Give, It Is So Much Appreciated.

A:

The Ohio law relating to the liability of a person who harbors a dog states, in part, as follows: “The owner, keeper, or harborer of a dog is liable in damages for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by the dog, unless the injury, death, or loss was caused to the person or property of an individual who, at the time, was committing or attempting to commit criminal trespass or another criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor on the property of the owner, keeper, or harborer, or was committing or attempting to commit a criminal offense other than a minor misdemeanor against any person, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing the dog on the owner's, keeper's, or harborer's property.” When these disputes are settled out of court, it is wise to have a release form signed so it is clear that the payment is to resolve the matter forever and that no further liability will ensue from the incident. Of course, prior to making payment one would normally expect to receive bills relating to the incident. Also worth noting is that homeowners and rental insurance often covers dog bites. Not all states have strict liability laws. Some states instead require a showing that the dog’s “owner” knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities prior to the bite/attack before a dog “owner” will be held liable for the acts of his/her dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog back from a shelter's adopter?
Q:

I was away from home and did not have the ability to get my dog back from a shelter that takes ownership after 7 days. A breed rescue group took her from the shelter and quickly adopted her to other people. How can I find out who has her so that I can ask for her back?

A:

Sometimes a rescue group will contact the new adopter to let them know the original “owner” is seeking the animal’s return. Occasionally, that resolves the situation. Many rescue groups will not give the prior “owner” the adopter’s contact information because of concerns that there could be an altercation between the parties, because the rescue group wants to preserve the confidentiality of its records, or because the rescue group believes releasing this information would lessen the integrity of its adoption program. There have been cases where individuals have sued to obtain the name and contact information of the adopter and to get an animal returned. Generally, courts have held in favor of the new adopter if an animal is held for the legal time period at a shelter. However, there are a few cases in which courts have decided in favor of the original “owner.”


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my adopted Coco back after 5 years?
Q:

My dog Coco, which was adopted from ------back in 2002 was adopted by my mother and then boyfriend, now deceased when I was just 12 years old. In 2008, I retained a temporary residence with my father in which he allowed my dog to stay there with me. During my month stay there, my father decided to implement a temporary restraining order when he was denied the judge to evict me and keep my dog (because he had no privacy with me there, but liked the dog). I was only 20 at the time with no source of income and me being in college.

My father naturally said I violated the order which would thusly vacate me from the residence. I was never charged with any crime(s). However, I was told to vacate as per the judge and have (30) days to retrieve the items in successions with a Nassau County PO. It stated I had 30 days to retrieve my property and dog (Coco). The plaintiff states the dog can stay with him until the defendant is able to get the animal back. After the incident, I moved and went to school and became a nurse and worked these last two years on school and making a permanent residence. I am moving to buy a house now where I can have any animals I want, as before I was so poor I couldn't afford anything more than renting a room or sleeping in a living room through school.

It has now been a number or years obviously and it has been said since sept 2008 I would be back for my dog. I really need my dog back, I have had many sleepless nights, waiting for the moment to regain all I lost through my mother moving out of the house to live with her new boyfriend and my father kicking me our to (have privacy) and being homeless--that I am finally at a place I can responsibly support everything more than well. I do not know if I have the paperwork from when we adopted her, but I know it was my mother on the paper. What can be done to legally regain possession of Coco to live her last years with me?

And...Would it make any difference if I got notarized statements from my mother stating the dog was temporarily housed until I got back on my feet? What if I cannot recall the stay away notice at this time and it said, "I have 30 days to get my property and my dog" upon not doing so you forfeit the property? What could I expect? I am also working in NYC EMS and FDNY. MANY friends in the NYPD. They told me if he doesn't want to give the dog back, which he probably wouldn't do, based on his demeanor I described. I could just take the dog from him (on the street) and that a cop likely wouldn't arrest me or get in the middle of it due to it being a civil matter/pet issue, especially because I am a city worker etc.. I know that sounds sketchy, but it's obvious when you carry a badge of any type in fire or pd, you get certain respect from fellow workers.

A:

I think it is unlikely a court would order the return of an animal to a person who was not the adopter of the animal, has not lived with the animal for five years, and had the opportunity to retrieve the animal five years ago and did not. In an appellate case in New York involving custody of a cat, the court 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.” You might be charged with theft if you take the dog from your father without his permission.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have to return a cat that was given to me?
Q:

I met a woman who said she was going to put her cat to sleep because it didn't get along with her dog. I offered to take her cat and find it a good home. She also gave me her other cat. She called the other day and said she wants the female cat back, but we've already found her an excellent home. We have all the vet records and the CFA certificate. Do I have to return the cat?

A:

Usually when one gives a companion animal away, he/she has no further rights to that animal. Of course, when disputes arise the individuals involved often present different “facts.” For example, one party may say an animal was boarded temporarily and not actually given away. However, unless there is a written agreement saying otherwise, when one gives possession of his/her animals and their papers to a stranger (who does not board animals), it would be difficult for the original "owner" to prove that the transfer was meant to be temporary.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What are my rights as an adopter from a pet rescue?
Q:

I've been approved to adopt a cat from a local cat rescue society (a 501C3) & I get the sense that they want to "own" one's future relationship with the cat. I expect that they'll make me sign a no-declaw contract and I don't know how much further they may go or how much weight it really has.

It seems to me, that any precondition they make becomes legally moot once ownership is transferred to the adopting party. My question is: Once the adoption is final, who owns the cat? How binding can such contracts be? How intrusive can they be?

This is about the principle that I want them OUT of my relationship after the adoption is final. They've done their background checking and have approved me. Once they hand it over, that should be it for them.

What are my rights?

A:

It is important to remember that rescue groups and animal shelters care for homeless animals and that some of these animals were abandoned, neglected or abused prior to being rescued. It is understandable that animal rescue groups and shelters would want to ensure as best as possible that the animals they place for adoption are provided with humane care in a forever home. For this reason, many shelters and rescue groups have adoption agreements which contain animal care provisions. Generally, these signed contracts are legally binding.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can I do to get back the dog I saved from abandonment?
Q:

My mother-in-law's half-sister abandoned her dog at my mother-in-law's house; they kept her for a little over a month. My mother-in-law called and asked if we wanted her or they were gonna take her to the pound. I saved her from going to the pound. She is one of the greatest dogs I could have had; I took care of her, loved her, my children loved her, she became part of our family. I had her for about 7 to 8 months until the original owner showed up to my house. I was out of town, my cousin was watching my kids and my 2 dogs. The lady stole her from us, saying we stole her. The cops said it was a civil matter - they can't do anything. What can I do? I really want her back, but I am afraid she will try something to get us back.

A:

When people cannot resolve a pet custody dispute, a civil action for the return of the animal is sometimes commenced. When there is no written agreement regarding “ownership” and the facts are in dispute, the court’s work is more difficult. For example, was the original arrangement for boarding or was the animal given to your mother-in-law? Was the animal really abandoned or was there a misunderstanding regarding the agreed upon boarding time? The best interests of the animal is sometimes considered by courts, but one should not count on that. Occasionally, disputing parties can work out a sale/purchase of the animal. The agreement should be in writing. I hope that you all consider what is best for the dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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