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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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What kind of lawyer do I need to pursue a civil case for my stolen and sold French Bulldog?
Q:

My dog was at a pet-sitting. The couple who had her are in their late 40s, whose parent was my friend and neighbor. They never returned my dog. I repeatedly called them, email, text them to no avail. The mother told me they had given my dog away, and they refuse to tell me where or who they gave her to. I charged them with the crime and the judge found probable cause. They were arrested and the defendants will appear in court and enter a plea in a couple of weeks. What kind of a lawyer do I need to pursue a civil case against them. It's not about the money, I just want my dog back. The puppy cost $5,000.00.

A:

Sometimes as part of a plea deal in criminal court, a defendant may agree to return an animal or property. Alternatively, civil actions in replevin (for the return of property) are commenced. Your case may be more complicated since you need to ascertain the name of the person who has the dog. I suggest you consult with your local bar association for a referral. Also, there is an organization in NJ, Lawyers in Defense of Animals, that may be able to provide assistance or an attorney referral.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is the rescue responsible for the vet bills of my sick puppy?
Q:

We adopted a rescue puppy from ---- in NJ 5 days ago. He was diagnosed with 3 parasites and pneumonia 3 days ago. The vet bill is over $300. When we contacted the rescue, they said they would only help if he continued to require treatment. We do not wish to give the dog back, but I feel they should be responsible for the vet bills under the pet adoption law. Am I correct?

A:

While the language of pet sale laws differ from state to state (and some states do not have pet sale laws), these laws generally do not apply to animal rescue groups or shelters. New Jersey’s pet sale law is applicable to “pet dealers” which is defined as “any person engaged in the ordinary course of business in the sale of cats or dogs to the public for profit or any person who sells or offers for sale more than five cats or dogs in one year.” Sometimes animal adoption agreements include provisions which specify rights and obligations when/if an animal becomes ill. I hope your puppy gets better very soon.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What is my legal recourse for misrepresentation of a neutered puppy?
Q:

We bought a puppy from a store at about 10 weeks old. We were not told that the puppy was neutered already. We have taken the puppy to the vet suggested by the store. The vet suspected the puppy was neutered. I called and after looking into it and having to call the breeder, the store called me to say that it had been done and their holiday staff neglected to enter that information into the computer. "Human Error" they said. What is my recourse? The puppy is 5 months old now, the family and the puppy are attached but we feel deceived. We had no intentions of neutering him. Even their vet concurred that chihuahuas tend to get fat and require a special diet if neutered.

A:

There are many reasons why neutering is important. Neutering helps to curb the overpopulation of dogs and cats and can prevent testicular cancer and other health problems. Neutering can reduce wandering and aggression. Neutering can reduce undesirable behavior, such as spraying to mark territory. Neutering should not make your dog fat. Speak with a veterinarian about an appropriate diet for your dog. If you still feel that your dog is somehow less valuable because he was neutered, ask the store for a partial refund.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can be done about a vet performing surgery without my permission?
Q:

I took my dog to the hospital for surgery. The doctor couldn't find my dog’s uterus and ovaries during the surgery. As a result, I requested that my dog stay in the hospital to recover and that I would pick her up the very next day. When I left the hospital, the doctor decided to reopen my dog’s abdomen without my permission. My dog couldn't survive this, and she unfortunately died. I say he is a killer, not a doctor - shame on him.

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Every state has a veterinary licensing board. You can make a complaint with the California Veterinary Medical Board, www.vmb.ca.gov. You can download the form online or call the Veterinary Medical Board at 916-263-2610 to request a complaint form. You can also sue the veterinarian for malpractice.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have grounds to sue the kennel owners for the death of my pet?
Q:

Do I have grounds to sue the kennel owners for the death of my pet? We took her there for safe keeping on Valentine's Day rush at my flower shop. We received a call on Valentine's Day morning saying she was dead.

Our Samoyed Dog of 6 years is gone and we are all devastated, even the community. The kennel owners were rude and very unprofessional at our time of grief and shock. We can never replace our baby but don't want others to be treated the way we have been.

A:

When one leaves an animal at a kennel for boarding, the kennel is required to exercise reasonable care. If the kennel does not exercise such care, they can be held liable. For example, in a NY case the plaintiff delivered her healthy eight-year-old dog for boarding. When she returned for her dog, she was informed that her dog was dead. The court held that “defendant’s failure to return the bailed dog presumptively establishes his negligence, shifting the burden of proving due care to the defendant bailee.” The court found that the defendant did not present a sufficient explanation as to the cause of the dog’s death and held in favor of the plaintiff. The court further stated, “The court finds that plaintiff has suffered a grievous loss…The difficulty of pecuniarily measuring this loss does not absolve the defendant of his obligation to compensate plaintiff for that loss, at least to the meager extent that money can make her whole.”


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I make a contract and have my stepfather sign it to make me the legal dog owner?
Q:

Two years ago my stepfather purchased a corgi, with the agreement from my mother that she was mine, my responsibility, and after I graduated from college and moved out that she would go with me. I am now married with my own home. My corgi came with me. She had puppies at my home which I cared for until they could be adopted, and I have provided for her (food, shelter, and vet bills.) He did pay for vet visits when she was pregnant but got pick of the litter for reimbursement. My mother and stepfather are now divorcing and I want to ensure that she cannot be legally taken away from me. She is registered in his name, but I am the owner. Can I make a contract for us both to sign and be notarized stating that I am the rightful owner and she was given as a gift? And will that be enough to legally state ownership?

A:

Written pet custody/ownership contracts which are drafted well, not signed under duress, and signed and dated by competent individuals can be very useful, particularly if pet custody/ownership disputes regarding the animal who is the subject of the written agreement subsequently arise.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my dog back from my late boyfriend's mother?
Q:

I purchased a dog and then moved into an apartment that would not take pets. My boyfriend kept my dog for me understanding that I wanted him back as soon as I was in a place I could have him or if he could no longer keep him, the dog was to be returned to me. My boyfriend passed away 2 weeks ago and his mother took the dog and will not return him to me even though I have his papers. Can I get my dog back?

A:

When pet custody/ownership disputes cannot be resolved amicably, lawsuits are sometimes commenced. Courts will likely consider that the dog was living with your boyfriend and that you moved into an apartment that did not allow pets (which might indicate that you no longer “owned” the animal). Except in dire circumstances, most people with pets would not choose to move to an apartment that does not allow pets. Courts will also likely consider that you still have the dog’s “papers,” although it is hard to predict whether these “papers” would be enough to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that you still “own” the dog. I hope that you and your boyfriend’s mother can agree on an arrangement that is best for the dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How long after fostering a dog is it legally mine?
Q:

My friend abandoned his dog and I have been taking care of her for 9 months. Now they want her back. How long does one take care of an animal before its foster home technically owns the animal?

A:

While there are laws that state when an “owner” loses rights to an animal who is at an animal shelter, there is no set time when an “owner” loses rights to his/her animal in a foster care situation. If the matter is litigated, courts will review the evidence and make a determination based on whether the animal was abandoned, given as a gift, or temporarily boarded. Persons who abandon an animal can also be subject to criminal prosecution but that does not usually arise in a situation where the “owner” of the animal placed the animal in a foster home.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Am I entitled to any compensation from a driver's insurance who killed my dog?
Q:

On 9/27, while walking my dog on the sidewalk, a woman in her car barreled into her friend's driveway. While on the sidewalk, she claims she did not see me or the dog, while turning into the driveway, got between me and my leashed dog, got the leash caught in her front end of her car, snapped it out of my hand and caught my dog (Yorkie), ran over her and ultimately killed her. What exactly am I entitled to from her insurance, if any? Hearing lots of stories.

A:

The issue of the valuation of animals who are negligently or intentionally harmed has been raised in many cases throughout the country. While courts generally find that animals are property, more courts are recognizing the special bond between humans and companion animals. An Illinois appellate court, in a case in which the plaintiffs alleged that a veterinarian negligently killed their German shepherd dog, held that, “The law in Illinois is that where the object destroyed has no market value, the measure of damages to be applied is the actual value of the object to the owner. The concept of actual value to the owner may include some element of sentimental value in order to avoid limiting the plaintiff to merely nominal damages.” Similarly, in a more recent Illinois case involving the death of a cat while being boarded, the court reasoned that it would be unjust to limit damages to the fair market value of an animal and that the value to the owner standard should be considered. In another Illinois case where the plaintiffs sought veterinary fees to try to save their dog who was allegedly attacked by a neighbor’s dog, the Illinois court ordered the defendant to pay $4,784 for the dog’s veterinary care.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can a rescue organization be biased against homes with unneutered animals?
Q:

Our family recently lost a rescue dog we had for 14 years to old age; she was the best. We have one other dog who is a hunting dog 2 years old and not neutered. We tried to adopt a dog from a rescue but was told that we couldn't even though we meet all their requirements except one, our dog at home was not neutered. How is an organization able to keep their tax exempt status when they are clearly biased towards pets who are not spayed or neutered?

A:

Responsible animal rescue groups will have stringent spay/neuter policies. An animal rescue group would not be jeopardizing its tax exempt status by having spay/neuter policies that are consistent with its mission to save animals' lives, to reduce the tragic overpopulation of animals, and to place animals for adoption. Below is an excerpt from North Shore Animal League America’s pet health advice column:

Importance of Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Why Spay and Neuter?

There are many reasons for spaying and neutering your pet. The first reason is population control. There are many unwanted euthanasias that are performed all over the country for the sole reason that there aren't enough homes for all of the homeless pets. If we spay and neuter our pets early in life, we can prevent overpopulation and decrease the number of euthanasias performed…If we work as a community to spay and neuter our pets, we can help decrease the number of homeless animals and decrease the spread of infectious diseases.

Another reason for spaying and neutering our pets early in life is to help prevent cancer. When we sterilize our pets we not only decrease chances of uterine and testicular cancer but we can help prolong our pets lives. Mammary and prostate cancer risks are decreased immensely from spaying and neutering, as well. Also, some unwanted behaviors can be avoided early on by spaying and neutering.

When deciding to adopt an animal from your shelter, please consider the above factors in this very important decision. It could mean a longer, more enjoyable life for your pet, and you can help decrease the number of homeless animals in our society. For more information, please contact your veterinarian.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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