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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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Legal Category
 
How do I transfer ownership of my dog?
Q:

I have paperwork for my dog who has a chip but I want to transfer ownership to someone else. What do I need to do so I am not legally responsible for the dog?


A:

Microchip companies have “ownership” transfer procedures so I suggest you contact the company that maintains the microchip information for the dog. A written report of a change of "ownership" should also be filed with the municipality in which the dog is licensed.  Individuals who transfer “ownership” of their animals can also enter into a written agreement with the adopter/purchaser which spells out the terms of the “ownership” transfer.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Should I contact the former owner of my dog?
Q:

I adopted my dog a year and a half ago and just found her former owner's information in the adoption packet. I don't know if the packet was supposed to have her info, but I feel like if I were on the other end of this situation I would want to know what happened to my dog. I want to contact her with an offer for updates and peace of mind, but don't want to step on any toes. I wouldn't be opening the shelter up to a lawsuit by doing so, would I?



A:

This is a unique question. Many adopters would be concerned that a person who surrendered an animal might have regrets and that hearing from the adopter could open up a can of worms. Excuse the pun but in this type of situation it is likely that a lot of people would say, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” Lawsuits are brought all of the time, some more frivolous and more winnable than others. It is difficult to know whether a person who surrendered an animal to a shelter would consider suing the shelter for releasing his/her contact information or would instead really appreciate an update about the animal. It might be less complicated to contact the shelter directly to find out if the shelter would provide the person who surrendered the dog with a recent photo of the dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Animal Rescue Threatening to Reclaim Puppy
Q:

2 months ago, we adopted a puppy from a local Colorado rescue.  At the time of adoption, we signed a contract that stated we would adhere to several provisions.  One of them was the requirement to have our puppy neutered within 90 days of adoption.
When we went to schedule the neutering, our vet told us to wait until he was 8 months to a year of age with his health interests in mind.  The state of Colorado has a statue (CRS 35-80-106.4) that requires rescue dogs to be neutered or to go out on contract for neuter.  However, that same statute has a provision that allows for exemptions to be made if a veterinarian provides the rescue with a written letter advising the wait.  Which our veterinarian did on our behalf.
Despite this, our rescue is still threatening to reclaim him.  Does the rescue have a legitimate claim to him, what are the legal means they will have to pursue to actually take him from us, and what can we do to protect ourselves and keep our best friend in our lives forever.
Thank you!

A:

As you mentioned in your question, Colorado’s animal sterilization law provides that an animal shelter or rescue may not release a dog or cat for adoption unless the animal has been sterilized or the prospective adopter signs an agreement to have the animal sterilized within 90 days after adoption. The 90 day period can be extended if a veterinarian states in writing that sterilization could jeopardize the life or health of the animal. That language was likely meant to allow an exemption due to the health of the particular animal and not simply because of a veterinarian’s personal opinion that sterilization should generally be performed when a dog is at least eight months of age. However, the language of the statute is broad and may be subject to various interpretations (unlike New York City’s law which makes it clear that the veterinary exemption cannot be based solely on the age of the animal if the animal is at least eight weeks of age). Colorado's law further provides that the animal rescue “may promptly reclaim the animal from the prospective owner” if the rescue is not provided with timely proof of sterilization. The rights of the parties would also be dependent on the adoption contract, any other documents signed by the parties, and any local laws. A rescue organization could commence a lawsuit for the return of an animal for a breach of the adoption contract or other documents signed by the parties or violation of the law. Depending on the contract, law, and circumstances, some rescue groups reclaim animals without commencing a lawsuit (although the legality of doing so depends on the facts of each situation).
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Ex-boyfriend took my dog
Q:

Hello, my boyfriend gave me a dog for valentines day and shortly after we broke up now he wants to take the dog back. I bought expensive milk, food, and other essentials for the dog. He treats her so bad; he keeps her locked up in a dark room all day without any place to run. I am  so heartbroken I need to get my dog back. Please help me with some advice

A:

Individuals who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a lawsuit (commonly referred to as a replevin action) for the return of their animals. Generally when a person gives an animal as a gift, the gift giver has no further rights to the animal. If litigated, courts will consider the evidence to determine whether the animal was, in fact, given as a gift and whether there were any agreed upon conditions for the return of the animal.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Dog left in friend's care by owner.
Q:

I have a friend who agreed to take care of his roommate's dog for 3 months while the roommate worked temporarily out of state. The dog was rescued as a puppy by the roommate. Financial compensation was made for those 3 months.
Before his roommate left my friend asked for any medical records. The roommate had none. It turns out that the dog had not been fixed nor had she been taken in for any medical visits since having been adopted. At the time the dog was almost two years old.
After 3 months the roommate did not request his dog back. In fact, he moved to a completely different state. He did come back into town briefly for a visit and never contacted my friend nor inquired about the dog. My friend would not have known about the visit if not for Facebook.
After that my friend took the dog's medical needs into his own hands. He had the dog fixed, vaccinated, and microchipped. He has even enrolled the dog on his pet insurance plan and payed a pet deposit at his new apartment. Now, after 9 months, the roommate has asked for the dog back. Does he have any legal claim after having left the dog for 6 months over the agreed upon and compensated for time?
Thank you for your help!




A:

 Colorado’s animal abandonment law provides that it is unlawful to abandon an animal and defines "Abandon" to mean “the leaving of an animal without adequate provisions for the animal's proper care …” Colorado also has a lien law which provides that persons “to whom pet animals are entrusted for the purpose of feeding, keeping, boarding, or medical care shall have a lien… for the amount that may be due …” It is difficult to predict the outcome of pet custody cases since often there is no written agreement which states the rights and responsibilities of the parties and often each party has a different version of the “facts.” A court could determine that the original “owner” abandoned the animal and thus has no further rights, or a court might order the return of an animal upon the payment of the amount due for the animal’s care.  The court could also issue a different order depending on the evidence presented.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Pet sitting service will not give back my dog.
Q:

I have a service dog (registered) Perseus, who has separation anxiety (we are always together, I have severe anxiety as well). I had some issues at my restaurant that required me to leave him home for a few hours, he barked too much so I had to call a friend whom we used a pet sitting service with too watch him. We agreed that I'd pay him back, but there was not much income coming in while my place was being renovated. Well this turned into longer than expected, and the days are simply going on and on getting simply too much to pay for. They will not give him back and I don't have my service dog with me. I am more than willing to start a payment plan, any advice?



A:


A person who believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld can sue for the return of the animal. Interestingly, several years ago the Office of the Texas Attorney General responded to a similar question, not involving a pet sitter, but a veterinarian. The question presented was, “Whether a veterinarian may refuse to return an animal if its owner is unable or unwilling to pay for the veterinary medical services rendered…” The Attorney General concluded that the animal may not be withheld under these circumstances (although noted that its decision might be different if the veterinarian complied with notice requirements in a law pertaining to veterinarians' responsibilities towards abandoned animals and the animal’s owner failed to retrieve the animal). The Attorney General also discussed the issue of abandonment and found that there was no abandonment in a situation where the owner “makes a good faith effort to arrange with the veterinarian to make installment payments and otherwise insists that he wants the animal returned.” While the Attorney General’s opinion does not pertain to pet sitters, a court might find it to be persuasive. All that said, it would probably be more cost effective in the long run to pay the pet sitter sooner rather than later as compared to filing a lawsuit. The financial obligation will not go away (and will likely increase over time) even if the court orders the return of the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My Ex-girlfriend surrendered my dogs to a shelter, how do I get them back?
Q:

My ex and I got 2 dogs when we were together and when we broke up I let her take the dogs until I found a house that will let me have pets. The other day I noticed their picture on a shelter site and when I called the shelter they said that she told them she couldn't care for them anymore and needed to find somewhere for them to go without even telling me. What can I do to get my dogs back? I need to find answers please.

A:

Have you considered asking the shelter if you could adopt the dogs or providing the shelter with proof of “ownership” and asking the shelter to return the dogs to you? They may/may not choose to do so for variety of reasons. The shelter might take the position that the dogs belonged to your ex at the time they were surrendered to the shelter (after all you acknowledge you got the dogs when you and your ex were together and the dogs were living with her after the split). The shelter may consider that there was a reason why your ex chose the shelter and not you to care for the dogs. Individuals who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld may sue to try to get their animals returned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Ex-girlfriend adopted my dog while I was deployed.
Q:

Currently I am deployed and my ex girlfriend was trusted to take care of my dog while I was away. We've been broken up for some time however she still has the dog. Now she has told me she adopted the dog because I failed to properly take care of him. How can I from here? He's chipped in my name. I know that does not prove ownership but is there a way I can get him taken from her and give him to a family member? Possibly through power of attorney?

A:

When animal custody disputes cannot be resolved amicably, sometimes individuals commence a lawsuit for the return of the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Am I entitled to a refund for vet bills from the breeder?
Q:

I purchased a puppy pug from a breeder. I got her number from one of the pet stores I visited. The puppy's name was Taz, he was purchased for $1500 and he was happy and healthy. About a week and a half later, I came into his play area to check on him, and saw him walking slowly and suddenly fell to his side. I called the breeder and she immediately rushed over to see what happened. Taz passed away from unknown causes. The vet that the breeder brought Taz to, performed an autopsy and found nothing.  The breeder gave us another puppy that I named Dozer. Because of what happened to Taz, I became extremely concerned for Dozer's health. The night Dozer came into my possession I brought him to my own vet to check him out the doctor said he had sniffles but other then that, healthy. I brought him home, and he seemed a bit off along with the fact that I was overly worried because of my past experience with Taz, so I brought him in again to another vet to check on him. The second vet said he was healthy, and I ordered a stool examination. I brought him home after the visit and he was eating and playing and sleeping. Later on that night, he threw up his food. I thought it was just the new food and wasn't yet familiar with it. As the hours passed the vomiting  continued. He then began to have terrible diarrhea, to the point that it had blood in it. I contacted the breeder with images of his discharges, and he told me he was fine and to not worry about it. I stayed with him to make sure he was hydrated and didn't walk into his own discharge.The next morning at his feeding time, 6am, he did not show signs of feeling better so I brought him to the emergency vet. There we learned he had the parvo virus. Later on, the breeder contacted me to find out how Dozer was doing. I told her that brought him in, and she asked me to take him to her vet I did. However because I brought Dozer to the emergency room to seek immediate care for the pup I was charged $1012.12. When I brought Dozer to the breeders vet, the breeder gave me back $1500 for the dog and ensured me that she would pay for the emergency room vet bill. I called the breeder the following day and told me that she hadn't looked yet and would call back the next day. She hadn't called the next day, so I did ask for money for the emergency room vet bill. Nothing progressed and she said she would call back on Monday (actually yesterday), but she did not. But while I was waiting for Monday to come, Dozer could not make it through and passed away Friday. In summary I received two puppies from the breeder, both died, and I have an emergency room vet bill for Dozer. What can I do to get my money back for the emergency room vet bill?

A:

I am very sorry for your losses. The New York State Attorney General’s Office has established an Animal Protection Initiative which, according to the AG’s website, “is designed to safeguard the public and to ensure the humane treatment of dogs and cats by requiring pet dealers to guarantee the good health of any such animal sold by a pet dealer to a consumer.” The Attorney General’s Helpline number is 1-866-697-3444. The Attorney General’s office has obtained restitution for consumers. Complaints regarding the sale of sick animals can also be made to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (this agency licenses pet dealers), http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/petdealercomplain.html. Individuals also have the option to sue a pet dealer if the pet dealer refuses to issue a refund. Under New York State’s pet sale law, if within 14 business days following the sale of a dog or cat by a pet dealer (180 days for congenital defects), a veterinarian certifies the animal to be unfit for purchase, the consumer has the right “… to receive reimbursement from a pet dealer for veterinary services from a licensed veterinarian of the consumer's choosing, for the purpose of curing or attempting to cure the animal. The reasonable value of reimbursable services rendered to cure or attempting to cure the animal shall not exceed the purchase price of the animal.”  For a summary of New York’s pet sale law, see http://www.ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/pet-lemon-law. There are also other laws, such as the Uniform Commercial Code, which provide remedies to consumers who purchase sick animals from merchants. This law essentially provides that goods (including animals) must be merchantable (fit for sale). This law does not contain the same restrictions as in the pet sale law. In fact, there have been several New York cases where courts have found that purchasers could recover not only the purchase price of an animal but also the cost of veterinary care and treatment.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog back after I surrendered her to a shelter?
Q:

Hi I had to surrender a dog to the local no kill rescue in NJ this past Sunday. All week I have been heartbroken and trying to find a solution for her. I got a call from one of the kennel managers midweek who told me if I could find a trainer to work with her I could get her back. I did and for two days have been trying to get her back to no avail. They said she is no longer my dog. I have also been trying to get a hold of the rescue owner. Do I have the right to get her back ? What can I do ? Thank you.




A:

Although individuals who surrender an animal to a rescue organization generally have no further rights to the surrendered animal (but that depends on the terms of the surrender agreement), sometimes rescues are willing to work with individuals who have a change of heart if the rescue believes it is in the best interests of the animal to do so.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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