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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 deceased mother's dog out of an abusive home?
Q:

My mother died and willed her dog Maxwell to a friend because everyone in the family wanted him put down. Maxwell was only 4 years old at the time. I lived in Ohio and at that time, my girlfriend drove to Ohio to pick him up. I made my decision to go and live in Missouri to be close to Maxwell. When I arrived, he was way way too thin. He was thrilled to see me and started gaining weight. I stayed there and started watching my friend abuse animals(kicking them, almost hanging puppies, screaming at them, and this scared the puppies to death, some dogs starved to death, the grooming shop was filthy, very little vet care). She also abused me and I left. Now I want to go get Maxwell out of that hell hole. Please help me.

A:

Animal neglect and abuse is against the law. Contact your local police and other law enforcement officials in your area and ask that they conduct an investigation. For further guidance, also contact your local humane society.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can we ask for our dog back?
Q:

We have a 6 month old Pom microchipped, a day ago we put him up for adoption as we thought we may be leaving the country. We had a response right away, I was not ready and everything happened very quickly.

He went to a couple that are retired - the husband can hardly walk due to his size and his wife is bent over while walking with bad back issues. I really did not look at the big picture until after I left him with them. After a night we could not get him out of our heads, we were up crying all night and unable to eat. All the paperwork is in our name along with the microchip. Can I ask for him back?

A:

Sometimes, new adopters are willing to return animals. You can explain that you had a change of heart and ask them to return the dog, but that does not mean they will give the dog back to you. If this matter is litigated, courts would consider the evidence presented to determine if ownership was transferred. For example, courts would consider an adoption agreement, if there is one, as well as the circumstances under which a person acquired an animal. For example, did the adopters respond to an ad you placed indicating your dog was available for adoption? While a court would consider that a microchip is in one’s name, that in and of itself does not prove that one still “owns” the dog. The courts can consider from the evidence presented whether one gave the dog away after the dog was microchipped. I hope this all works out for the dog--- he should have a family who can provide him with a loving and forever home.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I send the police to retrieve my dog from my ex?
Q:

I had been living with a man for the last 3 months. I have dated him on and off for 14 years, but he is physically & mentally abusive so I left him and was unable to get my belongings or my dog. The next day I went with the police and I was allowed to take my belongings but he won't give me my dog. I have threatening messages on my phone and he keeps saying he doesn't want the *%& dog but won't give him to me without me paying money. I have all ownership papers, etc. Based on the calls and paperwork, can I get an officer to pick up my dog?

A:

The police usually will not get involved in animal custody disputes between separating couples or roommates since the police generally consider these disputes to be civil, not criminal, in nature. In other words, the police often do not view these situations as they would a criminal case of pet theft where, for example, an animal is stolen from someone’s yard or house. When the police do not help to retrieve an animal, the parties can either reach an agreement regarding pet custody, the parties can reach an agreement for one party to purchase the other party’s alleged interest in the animal, or one can sue for the return of the animal. There is no way to know with certainty how a court will decide a pet custody case. Courts will consider who purchased/adopted the animal (and that should be helpful to you), but the court may also consider other factors, including, for example, who paid for the animal’s care and who was the animal's primary caretaker. Sometimes, courts will consider the animal’s best interests, but one should not count on that. In determining who "owns" an animal, the court may consider that one left an animal behind when leaving a home (although the circumstances of the departure may also be considered). I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area to help you to resolve this conflict if the police will not retrieve your dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do I legitimize a Craigslist adoption?
Q:

Hi, I'm about to adopt a dog from this lady off of Craigslist that claims she can no longer take care of her dog because she travels a lot. I want to know if I adopt her dog, is there anything I can do to make sure when she is done traveling she can't just come back and take the dog away ?

A:

When an animal is sold or placed for adoption, there should be a written agreement which clearly states the terms of the transfer. For example, such an agreement could say that the person selling or placing the animal for adoption (that person should be named) is the owner of the animal (the animal should be described), that he/she (owner) fully understands and agrees that he/she shall have no further right, claim, or title whatsoever to the animal and is relinquishing ownership of the animal to the purchaser/adopter (who should be named). The agreement should be signed and dated. The name under which the animal is microchipped, licensed or otherwise registered should be changed immediately. Most animal sales/adoptions go smoothly, but there are exceptions when people change their minds and then try to get an animal returned or when people are selling or adopting out an animal who they don’t “own.”


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my puppy back that my mom surrendered to a shelter?
Q:

My mother surrendered my 8 week old puppy without my permission. I went to the dog shelter to get him back. They refused to give him back. I paid for the puppy and I live in my mother's house but am willing to move out to get my puppy back, as a 19 year old kid in University what are the chances of getting my puppy back? Can I pursue legal action against the city?

A:

Just today, I read about a pet custody case involving a mother who allegedly gave away her daughter’s puppy. In the NY case, the plaintiff brought three of her puppies to her mother’s apartment while the plaintiff was having renovations done in her home. The plaintiff’s mother, without the plaintiff’s permission, gave one of the puppies to the defendants. The court in this case stated, “Even, assuming,... that plaintiff’s mother had promised or offered the dog to defendants, it was not hers to do so. Defendants argue that the dog was sickly and lacked proper care before they took custody. That may have required some reporting to the appropriate humane organization but does not give license to curative possession.” The court ordered the defendants to return the puppy to the plaintiff. Your situation is more complicated. The shelter may no longer have the dog and your mother may claim the dog was hers. If you want to pursue legal action, consult with an attorney in your area.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do you go about having a law enacted for full disclosure on where a dog came from when adopting?
Q:

How do you go about having a law enacted for full disclosure on where a dog came from, when you purchase the dog from a store? I bought a dog from a pet store on LI, that came from a horrible puppy mill in Minnesota. If I would have known before, I might not have purchased the dog. This dog had a congenital kidney disease and passed away at the age of two. I had spent over $12,000 on medical bills. I loved my dog very much. You go to these pet stores and they won't tell you where the dog came from, until you purchase the dog. I would like to do something about this practice. I know you can't put pet stores out of business, but the public should know where they came from prior to the purchase, so they can make an informed decision. Please help guide me, so I can help other dogs.

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. New York law already requires pet dealers to post conspicuously near the cages of dogs and cats offered for sale a notice containing the following language: “Information on the source of these dogs and cats and the veterinary treatments received by these dogs and cats is available for review by prospective purchasers.” I suggest that you contact the NYS Attorney General's office to file a complaint if the pet store you purchased your dog from violated this law (section 753-b (4), General Business Law).

Sadly, many, if not most, puppies sold at pet stores start out in puppy mills, large commercial breeding facilities where dogs are often warehoused in unsanitary conditions, in cramped cages, deprived of socialization, exercise, and necessary veterinary care. The breeding dogs spend years, if they survive that long, suffering in these deplorable conditions. As a result of these poor conditions and the unchecked breeding of dogs with congenital problems, dogs from puppy mills are sometimes sick and/or suffer from hereditary problems.

I suggest that people who are interested in getting a pet go to their local animal shelter and adopt a homeless animal. Doing so will help homeless animals and reduce the number of animals who endure horrific conditions at puppy mills. Some communities have already banned the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores, except if the dogs and cats are from animal shelters or rescue groups.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it legal for a Vet to neuter my cat without consent?
Q:

Is it legal for a Veterinarian to neuter my cat without my consent when my cat was in for amputation on his right hind leg?

A:

Veterinarians who perform unauthorized procedures can be subject to disciplinary action by their state’s licensing board and also be on the receiving end of a lawsuit by the animal’s guardian. However, animal guardians are often required to sign a form when animals are admitted to a veterinary hospital. Sometimes these forms state that a veterinarian can perform additional procedures if the veterinarian determines such procedures are necessary for the animal. I suggest that you carefully read the form you signed. Since neutering provides health benefits and helps to curb pet overpopulation, consider that the neutering was an advantageous procedure. I hope your cat is doing well.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can we keep a cat we found that was microchipped but neglected?
Q:

We have seen a cat around our property for weeks now we thought belonged to a neighbor and was being let out to roam a little. Though we don't agree with this, we don't know who it belongs to so we didn't do anything about it.

Today the cat was curled up under our front porch and would not leave. We pet her and she is very sweet and tame. We took her to a local shelter to determine if she was chipped, and they stated though she is with another shelter, from her state of being (very skinny, matted under fur, nails) she appeared neglected, abandoned and on her own and they did NOT recommend we return her to these owners.

My husband and I agree but we think it's illegal to take someone's pet without permission as they are considered property in PA. However, we would be sick if we returned her and learned she was neglected further.

Can a chipped animal not be returned and released to people who will actually care for her properly? Again, we've seen her for weeks now and she was starving.

A:

A person who finds an animal in poor condition does not automatically gain “ownership” of the found animal. While it is possible that this cat was abandoned and neglected, it is also possible this cat was lost and is skinny and matted because she had been lost for a long time. It is unclear if the cat’s microchip registration is under the cat’s adopter’s name or if the shelter is listed as the cat’s “owner.” Some shelters have a policy of registering microchips under the shelter's name and also keeping animals registered under the shelter’s name (even after adoption) so that if the animal becomes lost, the shelter will know. These shelters (and other shelters too) sometimes have a provision in their adoption agreements allowing the shelter to reclaim an animal who has not been provided with proper care. Perhaps the shelter in this instance would consider reclaiming the cat and offering you the opportunity to adopt the cat. Also, when people neglect an animal, they may not want the animal. These people sometimes do not respond to microchip inquiries and when they do, they sometimes agree to give away or sell the animal.

If an "owner" of an animal found in poor condition can be identified, one may also choose to contact the local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, humane society, or other local agency with the authority to enforce animal cruelty laws, to request that they conduct an investigation. However, cases involving a found animal who appears neglected can be difficult to prove unless an animal is brought to a veterinarian soon after being found so that the animal’s poor condition and the longevity of the condition can be documented. I hope this all works out well for the cat.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog back from my mother?
Q:

When I was 17 I received my dog Tahoe as a gift from one of my close friends, Amanda. (At this time he did not have Registration papers.)

Around eight months later I turned 18 and decided to move out of my mother's home. The move was a rush and after much arguing with my mom about the matter I left without taking any of my belongings. I moved into a friend's home the next day and had her accompany me back to my mother's to get my clothes and other things I had left behind. (I decided not to ask my mom about taking my dog just then, seeing as I know it would only cause yet another fight.)

After a week had passed and I felt the situation between my mom and I had time to calm down we decided to have dinner together to figure everything out. That night I asked my mom if I could take Tahoe home with me seeing how he was mine and all. All she had as a response was no. I had no idea what to do, I didn't want to fight so I left it at that.

I am now in the process of registering him, I have a nice home, and a job to support him. I just am not sure how to go about getting him back? I love my dog to death and he's all I want, help would be so much appreciated.

A:

I suggest that you and your mother try to work out an arrangement so that each of you have time with the dog. Tahoe is lucky to have both of you to care for him. Licensing, microchipping, and registering a dog do not prove that one “owns” the dog, although they are considered as part of the puzzle, so to speak, when a court is determining rights. When determining who gets custody, courts will also consider who has been the primary caretaker for the dog, who has paid for the dog’s expenses, and whether the dog was given away as a gift or abandoned. Sometimes, courts consider the best interests of the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What action can I take against an ex-tenant who abandoned a cat?
Q:

I own a rental property in Bethlehem, PA. Recently a tenant moved out, but left her cat behind. Is there legal action that can be taken against this person?

Can you recommend any agency that will accept this pet for adoption?

A:

It is illegal to abandon an animal or to deprive an animal of necessary sustenance. I suggest you contact your local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA) and humane society to make a complaint against the tenant who left the cat behind. Hopefully, this tenant can be located and arrested. If you cannot find a trusted friend or family member to adopt the cat, I suggest you contact no-kill shelters and rescue organizations in your area to see if they can help to place the cat in a new home. I am happy you came to the cat's rescue. Best of luck!


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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