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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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Legal Category
 
Foster parent not giving up adopted cats.
Q:

My fiance and I adopted 2 kittens from a rescue and at the moment they are being taken care of by a foster parent. Our arrangement was for us to bring home the kittens once we move in to our newly bought townhome. We paid the deposit and signed a contract regarding the adoption and now the foster parent completely stopped communicating with me, and the rescue team. What can we do at this point?

A:

Individuals who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can sue to try to get the animals returned. The rights and responsibilities of adopters, rescues, and foster care “parents” are often spelled out in adoption and foster care agreements. These cases can get more complicated if the adoption process was not completed or there is a discrepancy between the adoption and foster care agreements (for example, the foster care agreement gave the foster care “parent” first rights to adopt).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My dog was abused by a dog groomer.
Q:

We live on Long Island in Sea Cliff. We use a local pet groomer, and today the groomer did our six month old labrador puppy for the first time and I could hear a lot of banging from inside my house. I walked out my front door, which is at the top of about 20 steps on a cliff when suddenly the puppy came out of the truck like she had been thrown out the door. No collar nothing. Luckily she ran up to the house wet and covered with feces. She could have just as easily run into the street and gotten hit by a car. I walked down to the truck and the groomer would not say a word, threw the collar and leash at me and drove away. The puppy is limping and very upset and the groomer is gone.

A:

I hope your dog is doing better by now. Some municipalities, such as New York City, require groomers to have permits but care standards are generally minimal. While there is a New York State law banning the use of cage dryers containing a heating element (several animals have died at grooming facilities when left in cages with the heat on), there currently are no specific standards or licensing requirements for groomers statewide (although legislation is pending before the NYS Legislature). Nevertheless, aggrieved pet “parents” can sue groomers for harm caused to their animals and if it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the court that the groomer was negligent, the pet "parent" will likely be awarded some monetary compensation. Local consumer protection agencies and better business bureaus can also be contacted.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is my ex husband financially responsible for the family dog?
Q:

I have a daughter who is 10 years old. My husband got a dog 9 years ago, who is 9 years old. Last time we separated he took care of no animals (cats, dog turtle). I am considering divorce and want to know if there is animal custody. The dog is something he purchased and he wanted. He now hates the dog but she is part of the family and I do not consider "getting rid of her" an option, she is family. Can I request financial support due to the fact he plans to provide no care?

A:

Ideally when individuals separate or divorce, they can reach an amicable agreement for the care and custody of the family pets, including who gets the animals and pays for their care (which is typically the person who gets custody of the animals). While a divorcing spouse can request financial support for the care of animals, there have not been many cases where “petimony” has been awarded. In one case where the divorcing spouses agreed to share custody of the dog, the court ordered the husband to pay up to $150 a month for the dog’s care. Reportedly, the ex-wife of former NYC Mayor Giuliani sought more than $1000 a month for the family dog’s needs (but her request was denied). 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have right rights to my dog if its microchip is in another's name?
Q:

My girlfriend passed away recently. We have two dogs and one is in her name only. We agreed that if she paid the adoption fee I would buy everything for the dog and pay for the vet bills until I had paid the equivilant to adoption fee then everything would be split after. This was a verbal understanding between us.

Now her parents want to take the dog from me that I have raised for 3 years with my girlfriend. I have three years of statements proving I paid for nearly 90% of the food and vet bills also. Most of the vet bills are in my name along with the town liscense. The microchip is in her name as of now. Do they have any right to the dog?

A:

I am very sorry for your loss. Normally property and animals of a decedent are distributed pursuant to the terms of a will or trust (if they exist) or pursuant to intestacy laws (where next of kin generally have rights to the property/animals of the decedent). However, if it can be demonstrated that an animal was given away by the decedent prior to death, will/trust provisions and intestacy laws are often inapplicable. If an animal is “co-owned,” a “co-owner” may (but not always) gain full “ownership” of the animal after the other “co-owner” dies. Proving “co-ownership” can sometimes be difficult but that depends on the facts of each situation. Consult with an attorney in your state for further information and next steps. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog was given away without me knowing it, how can I get him back?
Q:

I had trouble finding a dog sitter, so I contacted the lady that gave me my dog to watch him till school is over. The next day she texted me saying that my dog and their dog were having troubles getting along and she asked if its too much trouble for me to find someone, she will give him away. I told her to "wait on that and let try to convince my parents and I will tell you if its okay for you to give him away."  Then my dog was given away without me knowing it. Am I still able to get my dog back from the other family?

A:

Individuals can bring a lawsuit for the return of an animal that they believe is being wrongfully withheld. When a pet “parent” is advised that a boarding situation is not working out, he/she should act swiftly to retrieve their animals and take them to board elsewhere or take them home if that is feasible. There is a law in Minnesota (and several other states too) which provides a mechanism for animals left for boarding to be deemed abandoned. These laws vary. For example, Minnesota’s abandoned animal law applies to animals left with a veterinarian, boarding facility, or commercial facility pursuant to a written agreement. Some states’ laws are only applicable to veterinarians while New York’s law, for example, is much broader and applies to any person with whom an animal is left for treatment, board, or care. It is difficult to predict how a court will decide most pet custody cases. Courts will review the evidence to determine whether the pet “parent” gave away or abandoned the animal and whether the person boarding the animal acted in accordance with the law. These cases get more complicated when the person being sued no longer has the animal. I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area regarding next steps. 

 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My brother isn't giving me my dog back, what can I do?
Q:

Hi, I had a labrador puppy from 8 weeks old, she is now 15 months old. Last week my brother and I agreed he would look after her for a week so I can get my garden tidied up and not lock her inside all the time. I asked so politely yesterday for her to come home and he has told me she is not my dog anymore and he is not giving her up. I've begged and begged for her to come home with me but he just isn't allowing me to have my dog back. I need help as I don't know what to do!!

A:

People who believe that their animals are being unlawfully withheld can sue for the return of the animal. The police can also be contacted.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can the shelter charge an impoundment fee?
Q:

So my Nana offered to watch my cat while I moved. Well; without my knowledge she up and takes my cat to the pound. She has done this before and I had to pay to get him out and now I'm faced having to do same thing. Is this legal?

A:

It is common for shelters to charge an impoundment fee to redeem animals. In fact, state and local laws often contain impoundment fee provisions. These laws also provide that after a specified period of time, the shelter can place the animal for adoption or have the animal euthanized. Therefore, it is extremely important for people to act quickly to retrieve their pets. It is generally not lawful for an individual who agreed to board an animal or a boarding facility to surrender animals in their care without the animal’s “owner’s” consent (unless, for example, the animal was abandoned). However, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that an animal was boarded when family members are involved who allege that the animal was given to them, already theirs, abandoned with them, etc. People who have had a bad boarding experience with a facility or a person (including a family member) should consider boarding their animals elsewhere. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do we get our dog back?
Q:

My boyfriend had gotten a puppy recently and he hadn't registered her yet. A friend of his took her away and won't return her, can he get her back legally?

A:

Stealing a dog is illegal, whether or not the dog is licensed. The police investigate pet theft allegations but tend not to get involved in pet “ownership/custody” disputes. These disputes arise in a variety of circumstances, particularly when roommates and couples split up. In these situations, civil lawsuits are sometimes commenced (commonly referred to as a replevin action) for the return of the animal. Courts will consider the evidence to determine who “owns” the animal. Sometimes courts will also consider the animal’s interests but one should not count on that (all the more reason for people to try to resolve these disputes more amicably with the animal’s best interests in mind).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I expect the shelter to contribute toward necessary dental surgery?
Q:

I adopted a 7 year old domestic short hair female cat. I asked the counselor about her history, medical, etc. I was told that she has a clean bill of health and was just given rabies and distemper vaccines and is up to date on shots. I was assured that the cat received a full exam from their vet. After finishing paperwork and payment I received a printout of times the cat was seen by either a vet or assistant. This form said tartar/gingivitis. I asked the counselor about that and was told that the cat has some tartar "as most cats her age do" not to worry about it. Though, I may want to consider having her teeth cleaned at some point. Having cats all my life I had expected to have teeth cleaning done at some point. But, once home it was clear that this cat's teeth were bothering her (dropping kibble, refusing water) Can I expect the shelter to contribute toward necessary dental surgery? 

A:

Adoption agreements contain provisions regarding the rights and responsibilities of the parties (shelter/rescue and adopter). Usually adopters are responsible for the veterinary care of their newly adopted animals although sometimes a shelter/rescue will assume the responsibility if an animal is diagnosed with a pre-existing condition soon after adoption.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do they people who found my dog have the right to keep him?
Q:

My dog had escaped on December 24th in which a couple from SC were there and found him and decided to take him all the way to SC, a couple of weeks of the new year, they contacted us and we both agreed that we would pick him up but due to personal reasons and issues getting there we told them that it might take a bit long for us to head there until they responded us saying that due to the length of time do they have the right to keep him, what do we do? ‚Äč

A:

 Individuals who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a legal action to try to get their animals returned and can also contact the police. Of course, if a more amicable resolution can be reached that is usually preferable. The clear lesson from this is that people who lose an animal should quickly redeem the animal after being notified of the animal’s whereabouts. Animals who are brought to shelters may be adopted or euthanized after a specified amount of time (the legal hold time varies throughout the country). Good luck.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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