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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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My son's ex won't give his dog back
Q:

My son rescued a dog last year, he and his girlfriend lived together until June. They each moved back in with their parents to save money. The dog was going to be shared, but staying with her. The dog is chipped in my sons name and they since broke up and he wants the dog to live with him/us. He paid for the dogs rescue and all vet/groomer bills. He trained the dog and honestly needs it for his emotional well being. What legal rights does he have? She won't give the dog back. We have filed a replevin and want to know if we should retain a lawyer to help us get the dog back.

A:

It is generally advisable to retain an attorney for legal actions (including replevin actions for the return of an animal). Given that there was an agreement that the dog would be staying with the ex-girlfriend, the emotional support argument will probably be a difficult one for the ex-boyfriend. Courts have been reluctant to order or enforce shared custody agreements (although they have in a few instances). Often companion animals live longer than relationships and that ought to be recognized at the outset. People should consider a “pre-pup” or “post-pup” agreement.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Rescue Organization Took My Cat
Q:

I started to foster a cat about five years ago. As part of the agreement, the vet bills and food were supposed to be covered. For the first few months, they were. But, eventually the food subsidy stopped and the vet affiliated with the rescue group told me vet was not covered. I hadn't heard from the rescue group rep in years, so considered the pet adopted. But, I was about to take a trip and wanted a back up pet sitter for the one I had lined up. The rep I had previously worked with surprisingly responded and said she could be for up to three months as long as I didn't dump the cat on her. She also said that she was willing to cover a dental cleaning for the cat despite what the vet said. Upon bringing him in for prep work (checkup, blood draw), she decided she didn't want me to leave the cat with the pet sitter I had lined up, and despite having cared for him as my own for years, had the vet withhold him from me and wouldn't let me even see him--even though the vet herself stated that I was "such a good, stress-free home" that he went from needing blood pressure medication to no longer needing it. So, for five years I cared for this cat, and he bonded with my other cat, and yet she withheld him from me although she had not put forth any money or time to care for him in five years. She claimed I was still just a foster, although I have never heard of a foster period lasting five years. She is now unresponsive to my attempts to communicate. And, now I am very sad (as this cat was my baby) and my other cat is anxious (he was her support). Is there anything I can do?

A:

A strong argument can be made that after such a long time without contact or support from the rescue group, the cat was no longer “owned” by the rescue. Unless the rescue believes that the cat has not received appropriate care, it is hard to figure why the rescue would withhold the animal (after all, the mission of rescues is to find humane forever homes for their animals). It also is hard to understand why the vet would withhold the animal (assuming you have been paying for the cat’s care and listed as the cat’s “owner”). One can sue for the return of an animal who is wrongfully withheld. I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area as soon as possible. Once an animal is placed with another adopter, these cases tend to get much more complicated. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Surrendered my ill Dog to be euthanized
Q:

My grandmother surrendered her ill Dog to be euthanized, at least that was what she was told.

The veterinarian told her that the dog was on it's way out and the best step would be to euthanize her. 

A couple mouths later my grandmother got a call from another shelter saying that they had her dog... My grandmother picked her up and is in complete shock. How does this happen and what step can we take legally?

A:

I would think that if the dog is in reasonably good health, the dog’s family would be elated. Surrender doesn’t necessarily mean euthanasia, particularly if an animal is not terminally ill and suffering, even though one may be told that the animal may be euthanized. Every state has a veterinary licensing board that accepts complaints. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get my dog back?
Q:

Good afternoon, I gave my Shorkie away for free 6 days ago to a family member. After 4 days I realized I made a huge mistake and desperately want her back and they refuse to give her back to us. Do I have any legal right to get her back in the state of Florida? They did not pay for her.

Thank you so much for your help, I am desperate! 

A:

Generally when a person gives an animal away, he/she has no further rights to that animal. That is one reason why it is so important to carefully consider this decision before giving an animal away, not after. Often people will not return an animal because they have bonded with the animal (even after a very brief time) and/or they feel that the person who gave the animal away was not sufficiently bonded with the animal and may act hastily again (which is also very unfair to the animal). Consult with an attorney in your state if you wish to pursue this matter.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can you do for an abandoned dog?
Q:

I work at a popular kennel in Connecticut, and as an animal lover I've been stuck between a rock in a hard place. Three months ago an 8 month old German Shepard was dropped of at the kennel. Since then, we've had pretty limited communication with the owners. They keep saying they are coming to pick him up, and they never do. My family and I are animal lovers, and would do anything to get this animal out of a cage before it permanently effects him for life. He's starting to look like he is slimming down, and he has very little strength considering he's been in a cage for so long. What can we do?

A:

First, I suggest that the dog get sufficient exercise, which would include taking the dog out of the cage and taking him for walks. If he appears ill, he should be taken to a veterinarian. Second, Connecticut law provides a mechanism for animals left at commercial kennels and veterinary hospitals to be deemed abandoned and placed for adoption. The law states, in part, that the kennels and veterinary hospitals “may transfer any abandoned animal in its custody to a nonprofit animal rescue or adoption organization which annually places ten or more animals in private homes as pets. An animal shall be considered abandoned if the owner or keeper of such animal fails to retrieve the animal within five days of the date on which such owner or keeper was scheduled to retrieve the animal. Prior to transferring such animal, such kennel or veterinary hospital shall give notice of its intention to do so to the owner or keeper at his last-known address by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall allow a period of ten days to elapse after the receipt is returned before transferring such animal. Each such commercial kennel and veterinary hospital shall post in a visible location the procedures provided for in this subsection and shall give a written notice of such procedures to any person who boards an animal at such kennel or with such veterinary hospital. ...” I suggest that the kennel consult with an attorney in Connecticut to ensure that it satisfies the requirements of the law and to review the boarding contract (if any) signed by the parties. In the meantime, the kennel should ensure the well-being of the dog. It is legally required to do so.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can we get them back?
Q:

My roommate just moved away and took our two dogs. They were under her name but they were all of ours. She was always out or going out of town. We trained them and took care of them. There were so many times where she would leave to go out and not even check to see if they had food and water. Those dogs were our life and now she took them far away and to a place that is not at all in their best interest. Is there anything we can do?? Please help.

A:

These situations are often heartbreaking, but it is important to consider at the outset that roommate living arrangements do not usually last for the lifetime of the animal. These dogs are lucky to have so many people who love them. One can sue if he/she believes that his/her animal is being unlawfully withheld. Keep in mind though that a roommate who purchased or adopted a dog and then took the dog when he/she moved generally has a stronger “ownership” argument and a more winnable case than the other roommates, unless the animal had been given away, sold, or abandoned. Despite this general rule, there have been cases where the court awarded custody of an animal to the roommate who did not actually “own” the animal. For example, in a Virginia case the court awarded a cat, Grady, to the non-owning roommate based on the best interests of the cat. Ideally, all the individuals who care about “shared” animals would try to reach an agreement regarding visitation, animal-sitting, or shared custody. When animal custody disputes get acrimonious, shared arrangements are less likely to happen. Courts generally do not order visitation or shared custody, but they have in some cases.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Confined dog
Q:

I had put my dog in a fenced in area too go potty and get some exercise. I came back in my house too get a drink and opened my door too see the landlords girlfriend sticking her hands in the dog pen so i told my boyfriend what was going on and he went out. my dog was barking and his hair was standing up. he was backing away but she kept calling his name with her hand in the pen.he came forward sniffed her hand then bit.now i think she is trying to lawsuit on us.

A:

The dog bite laws in some states, including Michigan, hold dog “owners” responsible when their dogs bite regardless of whether the “owners” knew that their dogs had dangerous propensities. In other states, dog “owners” will generally not be held liable for injuries caused by their dogs unless the “owners” knew of their dogs dangerous tendencies (for example, the dog bit before). However, while these laws vary they (including Michigan's law) often contain language making it clear that dog “owners” will not be held liable if the dog was provoked or if the person bitten was illegally on the premises where the bite took place. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Pet abandonment
Q:

Can a person be sued for pet abandonment?

A:

A person can be arrested for abandoning an animal. It is a crime. Abandonment is defined in Texas law to include “abandoning an animal in the person’s custody without making reasonable arrangements for assumption of custody by another person.” Depending on the circumstances, a person who abandons an animal can also be sued for money (such as when a person fails to retrieve his/her animal from a boarding kennel or veterinarian on the agreed upon date).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My boyfriend's dog was seized
Q:

Okay so me and my boyfriend have been having this pitbul together since he was 3 months . he has been spoiled and was and inside dog till we moved to a trailor . Well 2 days ago this female pitbul was on the loose on the street and she kept coming in our yard . so my boyfriend tied up his dog so he wouldnt go after her. So then that morning . we didnt sleep all night we feel asleep till like 9 am that was around the time we tied him up .. we fell asleep and totaly forgot he was tied up . he normallt runs around the yard . and so he tried to go chase the female dog  and he broke into the fence and scratched his face and so the time we were sleeping the dog pound came and alot of cops .. my bf is now being charge with animal cruelty ...  my question is is there any way I (Myself) would be able to get the dog back under MY responsibility as its owner . or What can i Do About It.. He Is Our Baby And i really want to get him back. please let me know ebery possible idea there is to do . thank you

A:

I am sorry to hear that your dog got injured, although it is important to understand that animals require humane shelter and care. Dogs require exercise, socialization, and the ability to move without continuous restraint. When chained, dogs can become anxious and aggressive. As you have seen, they can also get injured. The laws vary from state to state regarding forfeiture of animals who are seized due to suspected animal abuse/neglect. Some states, including Arizona, also have laws which may allow an animal to be forfeited before completion of the prosecution on the animal cruelty charges. More than one person, such as a “co-owner,” can be prosecuted for abusing/neglecting the same animal. I suggest that you and your boyfriend consult with a criminal attorney in your state regarding next steps. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My dog's rights
Q:

I recently got put in a situation where I had to find my dog a home while figuring out living situations. I asked a friend of mine and she said she would look after her we had a verbal agreement that she would take her over the weekend and see how it went for the both of us. I have contacted her several times asking for my dog back. What can I do? I just want my dog back.

A:

 An individual who believes his/her companion animal is being wrongfully withheld can commence a civil lawsuit for the return of the animal. One can also contact the police to allege pet theft although the police will often not intervene in situations involving pet “ownership” disputes arising out of a pet-sitting/possible re-homing arrangement.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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