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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 legal custody of dog I've cared for after owners neglect?
Q:

I have taken care of a dog from November 2013 through current. The original owner neglected the animal and I have provided all medical care, prescription food, medication, etc.  If the dogs previous owner gets his hands on him again, he will be neglected and abused again. The dog is in renal failure due to lyme disease at only 4 years old and was not provided proper care. A Saint Bernard underweight from neglect, I finally got his weight up to 85 lbs. My female is 125 that is still very poor. The previous owner agreed to let me keep the dog because its medical care is very expensive and he is homeless, or was and cannot provide for the dog. He now is threatening to take the dog back and I was told that he can get a police escort to do so. The dog never had papers, I do have a license for him in my name and vet records, etc. Please advise. Can I sue for "custody" of the Dog? The SPCA filed a neglect report, but what do I do in the meantime? Also, this person left his other male dog in my diningroom unattended when I was sleeping, I woke to let my female out (she also had her protective underwaer on) and didnt know he was in there, it resulted in an unintended breed, with pregnancy and delivery issues and a small litter of 4 pups common with and unintended breed. He is also trying to take one of my females puppies. No contract. Unintended breed. Please help. Thanks!

A:

Generally when a person gives away or sells his/her animal, such person has no further rights to that animal. However, when the disputing parties either live together or have a personal relationship and each claim to ‘own’ an animal, ‘ownership’ rights are more unclear. If litigated, courts will consider the evidence (including, for example, who purchased or adopted the animal, was the animal subsequently given away, who paid for the animal’s care, and who was the animal’s primary caretaker). Courts, in deciding pet custody cases, have also considered whether one of the disputing parties has neglected or abused the animal. Pet custody lawsuits are usually commenced by the person not in possession of the animal. The police typically do not get involved in pet custody disputes between people who live together or have a personal relationship, although they will get involved if they believe pet theft, rather than a difference of opinion regarding ‘ownership,’ is at issue. I suggest that the animals be spayed/neutered as soon as a veterinarian says they are healthy enough for the procedure. The ‘ownership’ of the puppies would be dependent on who ‘owned’ the animals that produced the puppies.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I keep city police from taking my dogs life?
Q:

My boyfriend and I live together with two dogs. One of the dogs had to be brought to the veterinarian. We both work five days a week, 12 hours a day, so we had my mother take him to the vet. My mother sat down and waited for the nurse with my dog and there was another customer talking to the nurse with a dog on an extended leash. The dog with the extended leash came close to my dog and they began to fight. Well after they got split up we just so happen to find out that the dog my dog had just gotten into a fight with was a police officers dog. He did not say you wanted to press charges or do anything to pursue what had happened to the dog when they got into a fight. He simply just left the veterinarian, went to the city and had his Sheriff right out a regulation and sent papers to my mothers house stating we have seven days to appeal this, if we take any longer than seven days our dog will be euthanized! They had brought the ticket to my mothers house on 5-28-2014, and said you have seven workdays to appeal. Ever since we had gotten letter we had been talking to the courts, attourneys, animal controls, pretty much anything and everything you can think of. We've called the law finder 800-number, lawyer finder and they had all told us they either do not cover that kind of thing, or we get a we are not part of the cities so we cannot give you any legal information. This is not just any ordinary dog, this is our baby our son! So as of today it has been seven days since he was in the veterinarian and the veterinarian was about to put him down. The veterinarian would let us come and visit Loboe when we felt the need to come and see him. My boyfriend today went to go visit him, but instead of visiting home he stole him from the vet. He first walked up to the counter and paid for the dogs procedures that he was just in for, he then asked if he could visit with Our baby for a little bit. When he was in the visiting room with our baby he had slowly opened the door and walked out the front door with our baby. Now he has a warrant out for his arrest and is going to turn himself in on Sunday. We were just wondering if there was anything you can help us with?

A:

The American Bar Association which is headquartered in Illinois has a lawyer referral service. The Illinois State Bar Association has an animal law committee consisting of attorneys who practice or have an interest in animal law. The National Anti-Vivisection Society (312-427-6065) is also located in Chicago and may have further resources. Most attorneys can file a notice of appeal even if they have no ‘animal law’ experience. Court clerks can also assist those who do not have an attorney. Obviously, it is important that you act quickly to preserve your rights and your dog’s life.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Legally can I withhold dog from former uncle who gave it to me?
Q:

My aunt recently went through a divorce, and during the process moved in with me. Her ex-husband told her to take their dog (it was originally his). Several months ago she moved out, but was unable to take the dog with her. Both her and her ex granted me ownership of the dog, but the ex-husband has called and asked for her back. Legally can I withhold the dog from him? In addition he took poor care of the dog, and is not responsible enough to take proper care of her.

A:

Generally, when one gives his/her companion animal away, such person retains no further rights to the animal and the new ‘owner’ has no legal obligation to return the animal. Of course, disputing parties often have different recollections of the agreement. If the agreement is not in writing and a lawsuit is commenced, the court, after considering the evidence, will determine who ‘owns’ the animal. Sometimes when determining who should get an animal, courts also consider the best interests of the animal, particularly if there is evidence of animal abuse/neglect on the part of one of the parties to the lawsuit.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What are my rights if my dog was paralyzed at the groomers?
Q:

My 9 yr. old lab walked into the groomers. Was placed into a noose and was attached to the wall in the shower. He was left there for several minutes. When they returned he was down and could not get up. The manager was brought in, and they pulled him out groomed him. Then placed him in a kennel and called me to come get him. I was not notified. When I came to pick him up he could not walk. We carried him out and took him to the vet. He had a herniated disk. We carried him around for the last 5 weeks. And sadly we put him down on 6/2. Do I have any legal rights here? He had no prior history of any illess or disease or injuries. Thank you,

A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. Tragically, there have been several cases involving dogs who have died at groomers from strangulation, hot cage dryers, or other injuries. Sometimes people choose to file a claim with the groomer on their own or through an attorney before actually suing (groomers often have insurance policies and may settle for a mutually acceptable amount of money). Expenses incurred for veterinary bills as a result of the groomer’s negligence (which may need to be proven in court) as well as compensation for the amount paid for the animal (or to get another animal of similar market value) are more likely to be awarded by courts than compensation for emotional distress or loss of companionship (which most courts will not award). A few courts have held that if an animal had no or little market value, the animal’s intrinsic value, such as sentimental value to his/her ‘owner,’ can be considered. If an animal had special training or performed services, that too could be considered by a court in determining compensation.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What rights do I have if boyfriend tries to take back puppy he gave as a gift?
Q:

Thank you for taking your time to review my question.
I have had a puppy for about a month, he was given as a birthday gift from someone I have been dating. We have had a lot of fights and he has threatened me to take the dog away. The puppy is AKC registered under my name, and I take care of him. My information is at the vet, as his owner since I am the one that has taken him for his first two rounds of shots. The guy I have been seeing only sees him on weekends when we visit each other. I am afraid that things are going to get out of hand and he might want to really take my puppy away. What are my and the puppy's rights in this situation. Thank you again for your time.

A:

Generally a person who gives a gift has no further rights to the gift (unless the gift was given with certain conditions). However, occasionally when a relationship ends people do all sorts of unfortunate and even illegal things, including taking an already gifted companion animal or even worse. I suggest not giving access to the puppy if you are concerned that he will be stolen. When an animal is stolen, the police may get involved (although they don’t when they consider the matter to be a custody dispute, and not theft). One can also bring a civil lawsuit for the return of an animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get the papers for my brother's puppy?
Q:

Hi, my little brothers ex-girlfriend gave him a dog as a gift. She says she dosent have papers on her and we desperately need to get the dog's papers because she is sick and we need to get her to the vet asap. How can we get papers on her? Help, please.

A:

You don’t need papers to get a sick dog to a vet.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can we get our cat back after it has been re-adopted?
Q:

Our indoor/outdoor cat was out hunting and a man down the road picked him up and turned him into the humane society. We live in the country, and our cat had previously been attacked so we assumed he was dead and never thought to look at the humane society. Recently I found the picture advertising him and he was adopted by a new family. Is there a way we can get him back? He wasn't micro-chipped but we have tons of pictures and medical history on him.

A:

Generally if a shelter holds an animal for the time period required by law and the animal’s ‘owner’ does not redeem the animal during this time period, the  'owner' has no further rights to that animal. However, sometimes shelters are willing to contact new adopters to ask if they would be willing to return an animal after an original 'owner' comes forth. Also, there have been very extenuating situations (Hurricane Katrina, for example) where courts have not always been willing to extinguish an ‘owner’s’ rights to his/her pet even though the animal was not reclaimed in the time prescribed by law. It is so important to check for lost animals at animal shelters and to post fliers all around. Your question also highlights how dangerous it can be for companion animals to be outdoors without supervision.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I find out how my dogs really died?
Q:

My mother & daughter Samoyeds, Kaiya and Sesi were pulled from a lake, they did not die from drowning. Necropsies revealed they had no water in their lungs, Sesi had a brain hemmorage, fur was not wet to the skin, gums still pink, no rigor. Both died at the same time. SPCA or State Police will not investigate.

Can I offer a cash reward for info regarding their death to the public?


A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dogs. Rewards can be offered by individuals for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons who harmed or killed an animal. Even if the police and SPCA will not investigate (unclear why they will not), consider speaking with them about the reward you want to offer since they may be willing to help with the flyer’s contents and distribution. It is important that the reward offer be clear so that one does not mistakenly offer to give a reward solely for uncorroborated information that does not lead to an arrest and conviction. Many humane organizations offer rewards and have copies of their posters online. Media exposure to animal cruelty can also bring forth witnesses even when a reward is not offered.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can we get vet fees returned for fostered pet?
Q:

We "fostered" a dog for a week before we actually adopted the dog. During that foster week the dog developed kennel cough and had worms. I took her to my vet to receive treatment which came to $145. this was 3 days after fostering. Later we signed the paper to legally adopt the dog and my fiance paid $125. I know the dog lemon laws says if a dog gets sick within 14 days that we are entitled a medical refund. BUT we hadn't signed the dog, so we payed for care for their dog. Are we entitled to a refund and are they going to take the dog back when we go in for the next set of shots and not tell us?

A:

Often a foster ‘parent’ and rescue organization or shelter enter into an agreement that delineates rights and responsibilities, including who pays for an animal’s needs (such as veterinary care) during foster care. Adoption agreements usually address rights and responsibilities as well and sometimes contain provisions specifying remedies in the event of a breach of an adoption agreement. Florida’s pet sale law giving purchasers rights if they purchase sick animals is not applicable to county and city operated shelters and registered non-profit humane organizations. However, shelters and rescue groups  frequently work cooperatively with foster care ‘parents’ to ensure that the foster animal gets necessary care.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my pets back from an abusive ex?
Q:

I left my abusive ex in MO in 3/2013. He wouldn't let me take my dog & cat with me. He's going to trial for Domestic Assault next month. If he goes to prison, they will destroy my pets. I need legal assistance to get them back before then. I am currently in hiding in another state. I've contacted numerous organizations in MO. No help there. I'm still making phone calls but need help as soon as possible. Where do I go from here? Who do I call?

A:

I suggest contacting the district attorney's office in the area where the trial will take place to claim 'ownership' of the animals. I also suggest you consider hiring an attorney if you cannot get domestic abuse or legal assistance organizations to help. Issues regarding 'ownership' of the animals and care of the animals when he is incarcerated will need to be addressed (it isn’t clear why you believe the animals will be killed).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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