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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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How can I get my dog back from a co-worker's friend?
Q:

I let a co-worker have my dog 2 weeks a go cause I was moving in a place that did not allow dogs. I called her a week after telling her that I wanted my dog back because I was not moving in that place; I found a place that allows dogs and she has given my dog to someone I do not know. What can I do to get my dog back?

A:

Usually when one gives a companion animal away, one loses all rights to that animal. Unless one can demonstrate to a court that there was an agreement allowing for the return of an animal within a particular time period or under other specified circumstances, one will likely have difficulty getting an animal returned (unless the person who has the animal wants to return the animal). I hope ‘your’ dog is happy in his/her new home and that his/her new ‘owner’ can provide the dog with a loving forever home.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What legal recourse can I take to get a kitten back I gave away?
Q:

I gave a kitten away without doing a home visit to residence. New "owner" emailed me saying she wanted to give me the kitten back and now "owner" is saying she wants to keep kitten. I went to the new home of the kitten and the home is DEPLORABLE and now she does not want to give the kitten back. I now want the kitten back due to the environment it is in. What type of legal recourse do I have to get her back?

A:

Usually when one gives an animal away, one loses all rights to that animal, unless there is an agreement that provides for the return of the animal under certain circumstances. That is why it is so important for people to carefully consider this very important decision. Animals deserve a forever humane home. Sometimes a companion animal ‘owner’ who gave away or sold an animal and then has a change of heart tries to purchase the animal from the new ‘owner.’ If you believe the conditions under which the kitten is living could constitute cruelty or neglect, contact the police and society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in your area.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do we get a rescue dog back from an unfit adopter?
Q:

Our rescue adopted-out a dog to an owner that has proven to provide inadequate care. The adopter signed a contract which includes a clause stating that we have the right to reclaim the dog within 30 days if we find the animal is not cared for properly. How do we get the dog back? Can we go to the home and take the dog so long as it is within 30 days?

A:

Consider a civil lawsuit for the return of the animal based on a breach of contract. Unless accompanied by the police to remove the dog, there is the risk of being arrested for trespass and other crimes. I suggest you consult with an attorney who can review your adoption contract and advise you further about your rights. Also, I suggest that you contact your local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) and the police who are authorized to enforce the state’s animal cruelty laws and to seize neglected and abused animals.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is the speeding car that killed my dog at fault?
Q:

The speed limit on our street is 25 mph. If a car traveling at approximately 50 mph on our street hit and killed my dog by my driveway, is he at fault?

A:

I am very sorry for your loss. Courts would likely consider whether an animal who was hit by a car was in the street or on private property in determining liability and damages. Courts may also consider speeding. State laws vary on when (and if) a plaintiff can recover monetary damages if the plaintiff was partially at fault. The amount awarded is often reduced by the percentage of liability the court attributes to the plaintiff. If you want to pursue a lawsuit, I suggest you consult with an attorney in your state who can assess the facts of your situation and advise you about the possible merits of a lawsuit.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How much of a neighbor's vet bill am I legally responsible for paying?
Q:

I was walking my 65 lb. dog on a leash when I did not see a young girl carrying her small dog with friends (no leash) come up behind us and scare us. My dog jumped up and scratched the small dog. The mother of the child later sent over a police officer and nothing was done and no report was written up. This happened in the beginning of June and July 22nd I was given a vet bill for over $4,000.00 - how much of that bill am I responsible for?

A:

State and local laws concerning dog bites vary throughout the country. New Jersey is what is known as a ‘strict liability’ state in that 'owners' of dogs are generally liable for injuries to humans caused by their dogs (if the person bitten by the dog is in a place where the person is lawfully allowed to be). That law does not reference damage caused to other animals (although some other states’ laws do). However, there have been cases in New Jersey involving dog on dog attacks. In one such case involving an attack on the plaintiff’s small dog by a dog who trespassed onto her property, the court ordered the ‘owner’ of the trespassing dog to pay plaintiff $2500 to compensate the injured dog’s ‘owner’ for the expenses she incurred as a result of the injuries caused to her dog. The court stated, “It is purely a matter of ‘good sense’ that defendants be required to ‘make good the injury done’ as the result of their negligence by reimbursing plaintiff for the necessary and reasonable expenses she incurred to restore the dog to its condition before the attack.” The amount a court might order one to pay would be dependent on the facts of each case. Courts may consider the negligence of each party and if the ‘owner’ of the dog who attacked had prior knowledge of his/her dog’s dangerous propensities. When parties settle disputes out of court, a general release form stating that the payment is in full satisfaction of all claims is often used. Dog bites are also sometimes covered under one’s homeowner’s or other insurance policies.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I find out if my friend is responsible for my pet chicken's death?
Q:

I went away for 4 days and asked 2 Friends to watch over my chickens. One in the morning (F#1) & one in the evening (F#2). The last day I was gone F#1 checked & all was good, did not hear from F#2. When I got home I found one chicken dead (the most sweetest trusting one). I tried to contact F#2 whom was the last to check on her and asked when did she last go? What did she feed? Anything happen who came with her, but no reply for almost 2 days. When she did reply she did not mention anything about my chickens or answer any questions I asked. She only needed me to help her with her problems (changed subject, was not important). When I told her my chicken was dead she was not surprised just said ya I loved her too, but still no explanation, no sympathy only changing subject to her needs. It's been almost a week and I have heard nothing from her still. F#1 was shocked & told me last time she was there & what happen (all pets were fine). I suspect F#2 is passive aggressive & is also an alcoholic. She has disappointed me in the past many times as a friend but this is too much. I can't sleep, I feel angry, sad, guilty for leaving her in charge. What do I do? Our family have been friends for years, our kids are friends, husbands are friends, her husband probably has no idea. I need closure. I need her to tell me what she knows, and show some kind of remorse. I'm devastated. Any advice?

A:

I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet chicken. In terms of legal liability, one would typically have to show that the pet sitter did not exercise appropriate care. Without a cause of death, this may be difficult to do.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have any rights to the pugs I sold that are now malnourished?
Q:

Back on 2/15/2013 I sold a pair of twin Pug girls to a young lady. A friend of mine noticed an Ad on Craigslist Orlando for their sale. The young lady was given the puppies still owing me $100 balance which was due on 2/22/2013 which I have the receipt for. I had approached her several times for the balance due but she always had an excuse. Ex: my boyfriend has my debit card so I can't get the money. When she received the puppies which were 2 months old at the time she promised she would take very good care of them. The pictures showed them very unhappy and under nourished(skin and bones). The friend that informed me of the Ad really wants the twins and contacted the young lady (21 years) but she has since removed the Ad since it had been flagged. I know the area in which she lives though the transaction was done at her previous place of employment and they have not heard from her. I emailed her and got no response back. My friend has tried several times herself with no contact. I want to get them back due to the lack of care of these soon to be 7 month old pups on the 21st of this month. Do I have any legal rights and if so what can I do? I am extremely worried about them. I know that Pugs eat a lot and require a lot of attention. I own their parents so I do know what to expect. Please I need your help. Thank you in advance.

A:

If you can locate the dogs, I suggest you contact the local authorities with the power to enforce the animal cruelty laws to ask that they conduct an investigation. If there is a breach of a sales agreement, one can also sue for the return of animals or monetary compensation (depending on the terms of the agreement). Breeding animals and selling them online is a risky proposition for all, most importantly, the animals. When animals are no longer in one’s possession, getting them returned or ensuring their welfare is difficult. I hope you get those dogs who you still have spayed and neutered.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have a right to know how the animals I surrendered are doing?
Q:

On Jan. 11, 2013 I was evicted by the State of --- from my home and I was current on all payments. It was a wrongful foreclosure. I quickly called ---- and said they could not take all of my animals on that short of a notice. One that I myself did not know was happening. I called the ----and they came and picked up three horses, three dogs and six birds. I was devastated and went into a depression. Now last week I called them to see how they were doing and I was told that they could not give out any info on them to me at all. That they owed them because I signed something. I do not remember doing this and was under extreme duress at the time this happened. All I wanted to know was how they were doing. ----was great. loving and caring towards me but ---- was not. After calling and leaving messages of inquiry to connections their staff connected me too, they had an Attorney call me. I told him all I wanted to know is how they were doing. He treated me like I was a criminal and informed me that they can't do that. That I signed away my rights. And that I used foul language, which I did not. He would not and did not care how I felt. I had no choice or time as to who to call that they would quickly respond to this situation. And all I cared about was my animals being ok. Is it wrong to want to know how they are? The least they could have done was lie to me about it. The whole ordeal was cold and uncaring towards me. What can I do about this? I don't think what they said or did was right. I have been trying to look up ---laws and can't find anything about this. I was told in the beginning by --------at ------------and by the director, -------- that I could call anytime to find out how they are. It took me along time to get over this and when I did call that was the reception I received. I want to know if I have the legal right to know how they are doing? I want to know, even if they had to be put to sleep. They were all healthy and had their shots and were neutered and spayed and well cared for and very loved by me. Please let me know what I can do about this. Thanks.

A:

Shelter surrender agreements usually state that a person who surrenders an animal has no further rights to the animal. Once a person has no further rights to an animal, the shelter would normally not be required to inform that person about what happened to the animal. Of course, that doesn’t mean that a shelter cannot provide general information about the animal, but typically the shelter would not be legally required to do so.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I sue my friend for declawing my cats without permission?
Q:

I had to move out of my condo due to a breakup and move back in with my parents that would not allow me to take my cats with me. I asked a friend if he could care for them until I was able to get my own place again. I have kept in communication asking how the cats are, asking for pictures, and have even visited them a few times. I told this friend I was going to be moving out the 1st of next month which would imply I would be getting the cats. This morning this person has informed me the cats were at the vet being declawed; something I have always been against? What can I do?

A:

It seems as if you and your 'friend' may have different viewpoints regarding the animal care arrangement. Usually a pet-sitter would not bring another person’s animal to a veterinarian for declawing unless the animal’s ‘owner’ gave permission. If a veterinarian is made aware that the declawing is not authorized by the animal’s 'owner,' the veterinarian would likely not to do the procedure. It is so important that when making animal care arrangements the agreement be in writing and the terms of the agreement be very clear. Visiting with animals, asking for photos, and ‘implying’ that one will take animals back may be considered in court along with other evidence but alone do not necessarily prove that one still ‘owns’ an animal. I hope you and your ‘friend’ can agree to do what is best for the cats.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have any rights to a friend's dog I am boarding?
Q:

I have a friend who asked me to look after his dog after a breakup left him without stable housing. The dog has been with me for 3 weeks and a limit was not determined. She was never socialized and is iffy with my dog and HORRIBLE with dogs outside, she is leash reactive, she is food reactive and she suffers from extreme anxiety. Nothing was done in her entire year of life to help her with any of this. He provides her food but nothing else. I have had to buy her a harness, water, treats, etc and handle her vet care. What, if any, rights do I have to the dog if I did not want to send her back to him? I honestly believe she is neglected emotionally. She is fed but there is much more to caring for a dog than food.

A:

I agree that caring for a dog humanely requires much more than providing food. However, when one agrees to temporarily care for another person’s animal, the caretaker usually does not gain ‘ownership’ rights to that animal unless the ‘owner’ consents. There are a few exceptions. Several states have enacted laws to provide that an animal can be deemed abandoned when left for boarding or at a veterinary hospital and not retrieved within a certain amount of time after the scheduled release date or after being informed (letters are usually required) that the animal is ready to be discharged. Additionally, animal ‘ownership’ rights can sometimes be terminated after a person is convicted of animal cruelty. Consider discussing your concerns with your friend. I hope you can work out an arrangement that is in the best interests of the dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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