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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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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
Do I have the right to sue?
Q:

I need legal advice regarding an incident that occurred about a year ago. While I was at work, my grandfather took my two chocolate lab dogs to a veterinarian office near my house and paid for them to be euthanized without my knowledge or permission. The veterinarians clinic that he took them to didn't ask for any proof that those dogs were his (which they are registered by the county under my name). So regardless while I was at work without my knowledge or permission they were put to sleep. These dogs were like my family to me. They were my therapy dogs. After this incident I have been to the doctor several times and I am now on medication for my depression and PTSD. The veterinarians office failed to check proof for who the dogs belonged to, just let a random person bring in two random dogs and put them to sleep without even second looking over anything. Do I have the right to sue the facility for not seeing proof of ownership before euthanizing my two dogs?

A:

hen a person who is not an animal’s ‘owner’ authorizes euthanasia of the animal, such person may be charged with violating criminal laws (for example, theft) and may also be subject to a civil lawsuit for monetary compensation. In such a civil lawsuit, one may also seek punitive damages (which are sometimes awarded when one’s actions were intentional and malicious). In one reported case, the court found in favor of the dog’s ‘owner’ against the person who authorized euthanasia (after the veterinarian stated that the dog had serious eye problems and a poor eyesight prognosis). The veterinarian was not sued (and it was not clear what the veterinarian knew about the dog’s ‘ownership). Generally a veterinarian will know an animal’s ‘owner’ before being asked to euthanize the animal because the animal has been a patient. Otherwise, it would be advisable for a veterinarian to establish ‘ownership’ before euthanizing an animal. When a person brings an animal to a veterinarian for euthanasia, such person is normally required to sign a form indicating that he/she is the animal’s ‘owner.’ It is possible your family member did this. Also, a court may consider that a veterinarian’s actions were not unreasonable when a family member of the ‘owner’ signs a euthanasia authorization, although agreeing to euthanize healthy animals raises other legal and ethical issues.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my puppy registered or my money back?
Q:

I bought a puppy that is purebred and was told I would get the paperwork with him. The papers were still getting done by AKC at the time so he wrote a note saying how much I paid and that he still owed me papers and we both signed it. Its been about 3 months and still nothing. I recently emailed them and no response. What can I do in this situation to either get my puppy registered or some of my money back?

A:

When one cannot reach a satisfactory settlement with the seller, one can sue for the difference in monetary 'value' between a dog with pedigree registration papers and a dog without such papers. In NY, for example, there is a specific law that states that purchasers are entitled to a 75% refund of the purchase price when the pet dealer does not provide animal pedigree registry papers which it had represented it would provide within 120 days following sale (although there is a provision in that law for extending the time).  Even where such specific laws do not exist (I don’t know of a similar law in Washington), one could still sue for breach of contract and seek to get compensation. Small Claims Courts are usually a good venue for cases involving relatively small amounts of money. There are so many animals at shelters and with rescue groups just waiting for a new home. Adoption is a win win for everyone.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I legally claim dog we got together as my own?
Q:

My boyfriend and I are in the middle of a breakup. He has had a dog since I met him, and about 4 months into the relationship we wanted to get a puppy. We split the payment of the puppy (I paid a little over half) and we decided she was ours. She went to the humane society to get all her shots done and the ownership was written in my name. I have several documents proving this. Well there was a time Indi got sick and I ended up bringing her to the vet, however I listed her under my boyfriend's name at the vet because he was already in their system with his older dog. He argues that this is enough proof for him to get full ownership over Indi when I move back to my home state of Minnesota. I cannot imagine life without my furry best friend. We have a bond they don't even have and it would be awful if his name being on the vets computer gave him full ownership. Especially when he has done nothing out of his way for Indi. Please let me know if there is a way I can legally claim her.


A:

The issue of pet custody is rarely perfectly clear. Each person claiming ‘ownership’ usually has some evidence to demonstrate that he/she should be declared the rightful ‘owner/guardian.’ Courts will consider several factors, including, for example, who purchased the animal and when (animals purchased before a relationship often will be deemed the ‘property’ of the purchasing party unless it can be shown that the animal was subsequently abandoned, sold, or given away), who paid for the animal’s care, under whose name the animal is licensed and microchipped, under whose name the animal is registered with a pet registry organization, under whose name the animal is registered with a veterinarian,  and who is the animal’s primary caretaker. At times, a court will consider an animal’s best interests. Generally, courts prefer that people work out these situations on their own since the parties involved know more about the animal’s needs.While it does not help one’s case to register the dog at a veterinarian under another person’s name, a court would likely consider many factors in making its decision.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Pound repeatedly denied having my dog, then gave her away.
Q:

I have a Shih-Tzu that we took very good care of and loved dearly. However one day she got out of the house, while trying to find her we made several visits to the pound and they said that she was not there. By the 3rd visit they told me that she was adopted and there was nothing that we could do. But the last two times I inquired if she was there they told me she wasn't, when she clearly was. I live in WA state. What can I do? The pound is being less than helpful.

A:

Usually if animals are held at shelters for the legal time period, the original owner does not have further rights to the animal. However, courts have made exceptions in certain cases. In reaching its decision, courts may consider negligence or intentional acts which resulted in depriving a person of his/her animal. On occasion shelters are willing to contact the new adopter to explain the circumstances and the matter gets resolved. When a resolution cannot be reached, lawsuits are sometimes commenced for the return of an animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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