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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 we get our dog back from a NY rescue?
Q:

Going back to work left our highly active & destructive dog in a crate too long. 2 weeks ago we gave him to a NY rescue, asking to be kept informed & that we'd take him back if a better home wasn't found. 10 days later we couldn't take it any longer and said we wanted him back. They refused saying he had just been adopted. We've been in touch every day since and they refuse. My dog is registered to us in CT.

A:

Once one signs a surrender agreement, it is usually difficult to get an animal returned. Shelters and rescue groups are concerned that the individual who surrendered the animal did not have the requisite commitment to the animal and that whatever caused the individual to surrender the animal could very well happen again.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I call the police and have them enforce the return of my dog since I have papers still?
Q:

I rescued my dog from the pound 3 years ago. Last year I had to move into a home that would not let me have any animals. My friend agreed to keep her for me until I could get something bigger with a yard. Now I have my yard and a home for her to come home to along with her adoption papers. He will not give her back to me. Can I call the police and have them enforce it since I have papers still?

A:

Usually the police will not get involved in pet custody cases. While pet theft is illegal, oftentimes the police consider pet custody disputes between friends (or ex-friends or ex-cohabiters) to be civil matters, best left to civil litigation, not criminal prosecution. If one believes an animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue for the return of the animal. If there is no written agreement specifying the intent of the parties (was the ‘ownership’ of the animal being transferred or was the animal being cared for temporarily), the courts will make a determination based on the other evidence presented. While adoption papers may be considered by the courts, such papers do not definitively prove ownership since an original adopter could subsequently give an animal away and simply fail to give the original adoption papers to the new adopter.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I custody of my dog back from this couple?
Q:

I recently placed my dog with a couple who agreed to care for him while I was away in treatment for 4 months. It has now been 4 months and I am no longer in treatment or in need for a caregiver for him. Unfortunately they are now claiming that they never agreed to only taking him temporarily, but if that were true then I wouldn't have done it at all. I've had him literally since he was born, my ex's dog had puppies and my dog was part of her litter. My ex never had papers for her. My dog does have shot records that my family and I paid for but as far as I know I do now have anything in writing stating that I am his legal owner. He will be 2 in December and I have been his main provider all but 4 months of that time. Can this couple legally keep him from me? What is the step that I should do in order to obtain his custody back?

A:

If one believes an animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue for the return of the animal. It will be up to the court to determine who ‘owns’ the animal. Courts on occasion consider the best interests of the animal. Courts may consider, among the other evidence presented, who paid for the animal’s care during the four month period to determine what the actual arrangement was—temporary boarding or a sale/adoption of the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get custody of my kitten from my ex?
Q:

I found a kitten and raised it in an apartment I rented with my ex. When we parted ways she agreed to hold on to my cat until my new accommodation was ready, approximately a month but I was also staying at her place with my cat.

She refused to give up my cat when it came time to and she has barred me from her apartment because of this.

How can I get custody of my kitten? She is now one year old.

A:

If one believes an animal is being wrongfully withheld, one can sue for the return of the animal. A court will determine who ‘owns’ the cat now. This can be a difficult task for a court when there is no written custody agreement. For example, one party might say the animal was a gift or abandoned while the other might say that he or she is the ‘owner’ of the animal and the other person was merely caring for the animal on a temporary basis. Sometimes courts will consider the best interests of the animal but one should not count on that happening. I hope you and your ex do what is best for the cat.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
The foster parent won't relinquish the dog to be adopted - who has rights?
Q:

I recently adopted a dog from a rescue league & when it came time to get the dog, the foster refused to relinquish it. The rescue is working on my behalf to get the dog, but a month later and no dog. I'm wondering what rights I have or the foster has in this matter.

A:

The rights of the parties are dependent on the various agreements. These situations get complicated when there are no written agreements, conflicting agreements, or when the rescue group does not have actual possession of the animal who it wants to place for adoption. If a settlement cannot be reached among the parties and the matter is litigated, the court will review the documents and other evidence and render a decision. These cases can be time consuming. I hope you all consider what is best for this dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my money back from a pet store who fails to produce paperwork?
Q:

I bought an English bulldog puppy in January of 2013 and now 6 months later the store has still not been able to produce the dog's paper work. Countless visits and phone calls and constantly turned away saying "I have to pull it out". Can I demand my $2800 back??

A:

A New Jersey regulation on this subject states that: “If the pet dealer has promised to register your animal or to provide the necessary papers and fails to do so within the 120 days following the date of sale, you are entitled to return the animal and receive a full refund of the purchase price plus sales tax or to keep the animal and receive a refund of 75 percent of the purchase price plus sales tax. In the event you elect to keep the animal and the dealer provides the 75 percent refund, the dealer is no longer obligated to register the animal or to provide the necessary papers to do so.” For more information, contact the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs, 973-504-6200 or e-mail the division at askconsumeraffairs@lps.state.nj.us. If neither of these options is satisfactory to you (for example, if you want to keep the animal and get the papers), I suggest you speak with an attorney in your area regarding a lawsuit to require the pet dealer to give you the papers (if the papers even exist). Under the NJ regulations, the pet dealer who agreed to provide the registration papers can also be charged with deceptive practices for failing to provide the papers. Keep in mind that many puppies from pet stores start their lives at puppy mills, large commercial breeding facilities where animals live in squalor.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog out of the pound before it's put down?
Q:

My 2 year old dog was laying on the deck and bit a family member, here's the thing I had to leave my dog at my grandparents because I couldn't take it with me to my new place until July 30th. My grandma has changed her story x times saying that 3 people were around to no one was around. Well she has signed it over to the pound as the owner an it is to be put down July 5th unless I can do something. I've raised the dog, it lived with me and my girlfriend has taken it to the vet. I've bought its food, everything, now she's saying she's the owner because I've had no contact with it in 30 days...Please help me I can't lose my dog.

A:

Sometimes when shelters are made aware that there is a dispute as to ‘ownership’ of a dog, they will not honor a surrender agreement authorizing the killing of the dog. If one wants to claim 'ownership' of an animal at a shelter, it can be helpful to present the shelter with adoption/purchase records, dog license, vet records---anything showing 'ownership.' Of course, it is always simpler when the person who surrendered the animal informs the shelter that he/she has reconsidered or is not the ‘owner’ after all. However, when an animal’s life is at stake, as it appears in your situation, it is often necessary to hire an attorney to intervene to stop the shelter from killing the animal. You should also speak with an attorney in your area about the potential liability associated with being the ‘owner’ of a dog who has bitten a person. I hope you can convince your grandmother to work with you and the shelter immediately. Also, sometimes the media can be helpful in highlighting a situation such as this and sometimes local legislators will intervene to try to save an animal's life.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can a cat foster parent charge me for vet costs?
Q:

My mother passed away and I had to give her cat up to a foster cat provider(I am not allowed to have pets in my apartment) in April. I just got a call from her saying that the cat has a mouth infection and its vet cost is $700. It is June 27th and she says it is not her responsibility to pay the bill. I can't afford it and now I fear for the cat's safety there.

A:

One’s obligation to pay for the care of an animal in foster care depends on the agreement between the parties. Usually the term ‘foster’ refers to a temporary placement of an animal. In these temporary placements, sometimes the agreement is that the person placing the animal in foster care will pay for expenses, including veterinary care, and sometimes the agreement is that the person fostering the animal will pay. Usually when an animal is placed for adoption, the arrangement is permanent and the adopter is generally responsible for paying for all fees for the adopted animal. However, some shelters and rescue groups agree to pay for certain expenses and particularly veterinary care if the animal placed for adoption has a known pre-existing health problem. Again, the obligations of the adopter, foster care ‘parent’ and the individual, shelter or rescue organization that placed the animal for adoption or in foster care depend on the agreement between the parties. I hope your mother's cat gets the necessary care.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My puppy died less than 2 hours after leaving the vet - what are my rights?
Q:

On 6/22/13 my dog gave birth to 3 Maltese puppies 2 girl and 1 boy. The girl was not doing well so on 6/25/13 I called the vet and was told to bring her in, they examined her and stated that her heart rate was low, she had eclipsed lip and that she would need surgery when she gets to about 3 months. I left the vet and within 1 to 1 1/2 hours the puppy died. I paid the vet $44 for the exam and $7 for the milk. I would like to know what are my rights since my puppy died less than 2 hours after leaving the vet.

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your puppy. Every state has a veterinary licensing board. These boards can take disciplinary action against veterinarians, although these boards tend not to get involved in fee disputes. If you wish to file a complaint, contact the Florida Board of Veterinary Medicine at 850-487-1395. One can also sue a veterinarian for money. However, sometimes fee disputes can be worked out amicably making a lawsuit unnecessary. I suggest that your dog be spayed after the puppies are weaned and a veterinarian determines that it is safe for your dog to be spayed.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I'm low income and want my dog back from the animal shelter
Q:

I surrendered my dog over to the animal shelter. Now I want her back. I'm low income and they don't want to help me out.

A:

Usually the person who surrenders his/her animal to an animal shelter loses all rights to that animal, unless the surrender agreement states otherwise. Shelters are often reluctant to return a surrendered animal because whatever caused the animal to be surrendered in the first place may occur again. In other words, the shelter would have concern about the animal’s future well-being and about the “owner’s” long term commitment to that animal. It is so important for people to consider the consequences of their actions before surrendering their animals to a shelter or giving their animals away.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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