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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
 
Neglected cat's "owner" wants him back.
Q:

About 6 months ago I found a cat near our neighborhood, he's a long hair so at first glance the state of his condition wasn't very apparent, but upon petting him he was basically skin and bones and had heavily matted patches of fur all over. I began to ask people in the neighbourhood about the cat, anyone I had talked to had said the cat had been outdoors for years and a women down the street had been feeding him. I came back later that day with food and water and found the cat; who ate like he hasn't been fed in a while. The woman came home and was able to speak with her about the cat. She told me that the cat had been there for about 3 years and had always been really poorly and thin and not taken care of. She has cats of her own and her and a few other people on the block had taken it upon themselves to help care for the animal by way of food and water. She said that the cat had previously been taken in by someone but returned to the original owner once the microchip was scanned and he requested the cat back, but then he was let back out to deteriorate again. I asked her if she minded if I took him because I can't in good conscience leave an animal in that state out there. She said she would be happy if I did.

I came back later that evening to retrieve the animal and made a vet appointment for the next morning. I've been careful to document the condition of the animal via photos and that was also my intention of getting him to the vet asap, to have him checked out, get vaccinations immediately (I have cats already) and to document the state of him. The vet brought him up to date on shots and helped cut out a few matts. I took him home and started the process of shaving him down, bathing him and removing the rest of the matted fur. I then brought him to a groomer the day after to further clean him up and put him on high grade wet and dry food asap.

I took him a few months after to get his booster shots and my vet recommended the possibility of attempting to get legal ownership transferred to me. In trying to do the right thing I agreed to let her contact the previous owner regarding this. And I've recently received a call after a few weeks he's gotten in touch requesting the cat be returned. Beyond the fact that I have already invested hundreds of dollars in vet bills and food into this cat (and will be spending about another $700 for dental exams and possibly tooth extraction) I cannot in good conscience be willing to return an animal to a situation where he will almost undoubtedly be neglected again. I'm hoping that the information I've provided and documented would mean I have a substantial legal case for retaining "ownership" of said cat. I know in the state of WI animals are unfortunately still considered property, but handing an animal over to someone who has repeatedly neglected it (even though he says the animal has "sentimental" value - which makes it even worse in my opinion) doesn't seem like the morally right thing to do.  The quality of life for the cat since he came to our home as improved drastically, his health has improved considerably as well (obviously) and my current cats and him have formed a very strong bond.

I'm hoping to figure out what my rights are and what I can do if this issue becomes a legal matter. I am working on getting statements from people who have seen the state of the cat when we got him and also from some of the neighbours in the area who can prove that he was in poor condition and neglected for some time (years) prior.

A:

“Ownership” rights in lost and found animal situations are often not perfectly clear but, as the expression goes, “possession is nine-tenths of the law.” Generally if an amicable arrangement cannot be worked out between the disputing individuals, the person not in possession of a found animal has the burden of suing to try to get possession (and people who have neglected an animal are not as likely to go through the time and expense of a lawsuit). As unfair as it might seem (and often is), sometimes these situations can be resolved more quickly by the payment of a fee for the animal along with a written and signed contract which makes it clear that one person is relinquishing all rights to the animal to the other person. The police generally don’t get involved in pet custody disputes unless they believe an animal was stolen. While courts would consider a microchip registration, they would also likely consider evidence of ongoing neglect. Courts might also consider that the original “owner” waited weeks to contact the animal’s finder (after being notified by the veterinarian). In light of these facts, the court could determine that the original “owner” abandoned the cat and has no further rights to the cat. I suggest that you consult with an attorney in your state if you are sued (or even before).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it considered abuse if a dog stays in a kennel the rest of its life?
Q:

I work at a kennel, and there are several dogs there that we have from a rescue. We are not allowed to play with these dogs, walk them or anything. They stay in the kennels inside or outside. That's it. If the dog has no chance to be adopted out, and lives its life in a kennel forever, is it animal abuse? It seems like it to me.



A:

Maryland’s animal abuse/neglect law provides, among other things, that a person who has “charge or custody of an animal” may not “unnecessarily fail to provide the animal with nutritious food in sufficient quantity, necessary veterinary care, proper drink, air space, shelter, or protection from the weather.” Sometimes the failure to provide a good life for an animal does not fall within the scope of the animal cruelty laws. When animal neglect/abuse is suspected, local law enforcement authorities should be contacted. Some rescues take animals who would otherwise be euthanized and place them in kennels while they try to find good homes for the animals. Have you considered speaking with a representative from the rescue group to find out what their plans are for these dogs?


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can Animal control take an adopted dog?
Q:

My brother in law found a dog who was abandoned. He located the owner and told him she no longer wanted the dog. Can animal control come and take the dog after he has already become attached and has given her a safe and loving home with his other dog who has also become attached? Animal control claims the dog belongs to the humane society.



A:

Some animal adoption agreements provide that if the adopter no longer wishes to keep the animal, the adopter must return the animal to the humane society that adopted out the animal. Despite these provisions, typically the humane society or animal control officer would not have the right to simply remove the animal from the third party (person who the adopter gave the animal to or otherwise allowed to keep the animal). Often, new adopters can work out an arrangement for transfer of name with the humane society. If the humane society is not satisfied with such an arrangement, it has the option to sue (but often does not unless there is genuine concern that the animal is being neglected or abused in the new home). I suggest that your brother-in-law consult with an attorney in his area who, hopefully, can resolve this situation in the animal’s best interests.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can the ASPCA spay my dog without permission?
Q:

My dad crashed his car and my dog was in there; the ASPCA picked her up. At that point they spayed and tagged her without my permission. Can they legaly do that without my permission? We live in Tulare County, Ca.

A:

Laws pertaining to the release of animals from shelters vary from state to state and even among municipalities within the same state so it is important to check with one’s local town attorney or clerk. Many spay/neuter laws require shelters to spay/neuter prior to releasing an animal (or at least require the payment of a spay/neuter deposit), but most of these laws pertain to animals being released for adoption, not animals being returned to their “owner” during the legal hold period (time which the shelter must hold an animal to give the animal’s “owner” the opportunity to redeem the animal). In California, the state law provides that shelters and rescue groups may not sell or give away any dog that has not been spayed or neutered (with limited exceptions, including requiring adopters to leave spay/neuter deposits). Spaying and neutering not only helps to curtail the serious overpopulation of dogs and cats, but also has health benefits for the animals. Laws pertaining to the release of dogs from shelters typically require the dogs to be licensed.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can ASPCA spay my dog without my permission?
Q:

My dad crashed his car and my dog was in there. The ASPCA picked her up. At that point they spayed and tagged her without my permission. Can they legally do that without my permission? We live in Tulare County, CA.

A:

Laws pertaining to the release of animals from shelters vary from state to state and even among municipalities within the same state so it is important to check with one’s local town attorney or clerk. Many spay/neuter laws require shelters to spay/neuter prior to releasing an animal (or at least require the payment of a spay/neuter deposit), but most of these laws pertain to animals being released for adoption, not animals being returned to their “owner” during the legal hold period (time which the shelter must hold an animal to give the animal’s “owner” the opportunity to redeem the animal). In California, the state law provides that shelters and rescue groups may not sell or give away any dog that has not been spayed or neutered (with limited exceptions, including requiring adopters to leave spay/neuter deposits). Spaying and neutering not only helps to curtail the serious overpopulation of dogs and cats, but also has health benefits for the animals. Laws pertaining to the release of dogs from shelters typically require the dogs to be licensed.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Police action against a pet sitter
Q:

My pet sitter lost my dog while I was out of state putting my mother in a nursing home. Can I file a police report? What legal action can I take against her? She doesn't seem concerned by this tragic loss. She hadn't even put up one single poster. My Izzy has been gone for a month. I think something is not right with the story she is telling me.

A:

The police generally take complaints regarding crimes so unless the facts indicate that a caregiver abused an animal or abandoned an animal in violation of the cruelty to animals or abandonment laws (or other criminal animal protection law), the police are not likely to get involved. A civil lawsuit may be brought for monetary damages (money) against a pet sitter or other animal caregiver whose negligence resulted in harm to or loss of one’s animal. I suggest you contact and visit local shelters. I also suggest that you contact animal control, the police (who in some areas maintain lost and found animal reports),  put up posters, and check lost/found online sites to try to locate your dog. Good luck!


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Woman refuses to return my dog.
Q:

I was traveling to China last month and left my dog with my parents. They lost her in our front yard and a women called them said she found the dog but she refuse to return my dog back. She thinks the dogs hair is too long and my parents could not taking care of my dog. Now she sent the dog to her parents!

A:

An individual who believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld can contact the police. While the police do not typically get involved in pet custody disputes between roommates and ex-partners/spouses, they are more likely to intervene when a stranger is withholding an animal (as possible pet theft). One can also commence a civil lawsuit for the return of an animal (generally referred to as a replevin action).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Friend refuses to take dog for surgery.
Q:

My friends dog has large mass. They took it to vet where they said it could be benign but looked to have small abnormalities. $398 to $597 to fix and with large margins won't comeback. I have had her dog insured for 2 years, and pay for the visits. It will cost her nothing. The dog seems to be uncomfortable. She says she's going to do nothing and just make him comfortable. He is only 8 and very healthy, and the vet even said he can get it all . Can I take her to court since the operation is paid by me, she will owe nothing. She is taking years away from him.

A:

Generally a dog's "owner" (and “co-owner”) must provide necessary care (including veterinary care) for their dog. Whether a person is a dog's "co-owner" or merely helping out the dog's "owner" is not always clear and needs to be decided on a case by case basis. Perhaps consider getting a second opinion regarding the need for the operation and potential risks vs. benefits. Animal neglect is against the law. In one New York case, for example, a dog’s “owner” was convicted of cruelty to animals after an investigation showed, among many other things, that she failed to provide care for her dog who had a large tumor (she did not show up for a veterinarian’s appointment for the purpose of determining whether the tumor was operable and no other medical treatment was sought).
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can dogs be taken away?
Q:

Can the pound take the owners dogs away? Can they get the owners in trouble if the dogs are not taken care of properly?


A:

There are animal cruelty laws in every state.  People convicted of violating animal cruelty laws may be fined and/or imprisoned. Depending on the circumstances, abused and neglected animals may be seized by the police and other officers with authority to enforce animal cruelty laws.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Negligent Vet
Q:

Hello,
    Do you know of vets who could look at the records?     
    I need confirmation from a vet that they did things wrong in order to satisfy the credit card company.
I am not disputing all of the charges because the ultrasound was done by a separate office within the facility.
    Molly went there Sunday Oct. 25, 2015. There is a list of things that they are guilty of.
    The vet said that if Molly's glucose was normal she was sending her home Wed. at 6PM. because they are doing more harm than good.
    Unfortunately I did not visit in the morning. I went every morning and evening but I decided to wait until 6 when she could come home.
    It took them weeks to send the records. They were emailed when I asked for them to be mailed. When they finally mailed them there were five pages less than in the email. I was told they sent all of them.
    They gave meds that I told them not to. Then changed to another one than has the same bad thing in it which causes loss of sight. Molly was petrified when I saw her Tuesday night and they did nothing.
    When I arrived about 5:10 to visit with Molly before they released her, they kept putting me off. I was persistent so was taken to a room and told the vet would be in to talk to me. After asking about 5 times how Molly is, the tech said told Molly was in cardiac arrest.
    They never did a cysto for instance and yet records dated Nov. 23rd, after Molly died. Also they took other blood tests that were impossible at that time.
    I wanted to discuss the entire bill numerous times. There were too many discrepancies. They insisted on being paid everyday. One night at 10:00 the vet asked me to pay more. I said I am not going to discuss that at night and will tomorrow when I come to get Molly.      
    Finally the administator emailed that she was taking off the amount due. That was for the day they killed Molly. She said that she was informing her entire staff not to have any contact with me.
    After that I was sent a notice of past due bill. After that I was sent a final notice that it was being turned over to a collection agency.
    All they ever cared about was money.
    I know a vet will be able to discern from the records that what they did was negligent. That is all I need to get a lot of my money back.


A:

I am very sorry for your loss. We do not maintain lists of veterinarians who review medical records for credit card challenges. Individuals who believe that a veterinarian’s negligence or other wrongdoing caused harm to their animal can sue the veterinarian for monetary damages (money) and can file a complaint with their state veterinary licensing board (in Arizona, the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board). Please note that the Arizona Board does not handle fee disputes, award money, or require veterinarians to refund money. Disciplinary actions taken by licensing boards are usually in the form of censures, monetary penalties, and license suspensions and revocations.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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