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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
 
Do I need previous paperwork from the previous owner to buy a dog?
Q:

My friend wants to sell me his 6 month old puppy. When I buy it do I have to have any paperwork from the previous owner?

A:

While in some states, pet stores and breeders are required to provide purchasers with information on the source of the dogs and cats who they sell, generally when an individual sells his/her dog, he/she is not required to provide the purchaser with paperwork from a prior “owner.” However, such documentation may be helpful to allay concerns about the animal being stolen. Of course, that assumes that the documentation provided is valid.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do I go about changing ownership of a dog?
Q:

I got my dog from SPCA and I was thinking of returning her, but one of my family member wants her. Since I have paperwork done and everything with SCPA, do I have to change the ownership? If yes, how?

A:

I suggest reviewing your adoption agreement. Often animal adoption agreements include provisions regarding change of “ownership,” with some adoption agreements requiring approval from the adoption agency (SPCA, humane society, rescue, etc.) and other agreements requiring the animal to be returned to the agency (which would then screen potential adopters, including a family member). Also, generally when transferring “ownership” of a licensed dog a change of ownership form needs to be filed with the local dog licensing agency (depending on the municipality, sometimes the new “owner” has to purchase a new dog license and sometimes just a small transfer fee needs to be paid until the expiration of the current dog license term). When giving an animal away or selling an animal, other records indicating “ownership” should also be changed. For example, contact information with the microchip registration company should be changed (or the new “owner” should get the animal microchipped if the animal does not already have one implanted) and veterinary records should be changed to reflect that the animal has a new “owner.”
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I've been taking care of a dog for 3 years; what ownership rights do I have?
Q:

I've been taking care of someone's dog since July 2012. He's a gang member. Whether he's in jail or not in jail he has had this dog in my care, which isn't surprising since he has 7 children he doesn't support this dog is no different.

Having had her and taken care of her for over 3 years I checked with Animal Control and this pit bull was licensed, and she was microchipped.  Both show the same owner but it is not him.  He failed to transfer ownership and has never licensed the dog and never registered her chip not once since 2008.

Since 2008 both the county license and the microchip have only one owner and it's the same owner listed. I'm asking them to transfer ownership of this dog to me. What problems do I face for doing this?  He's not the legal owner and has never shown any interest in being the actual owner, obviously, so can I ask the actual owners for custody and keep this dog?

A:

A person who gave his/her animal away or sold his/her animal generally has no further rights to that animal, including the right to transfer “ownership” to another person (unless there is an agreement stating otherwise). Although a microchip and dog license can demonstrate “ownership,” they do not necessarily prove “ownership” in all situations. For example, if a person registers a microchip or dog license in his/her name and subsequently gives the dog away, such person would generally no longer “own” the animal, even if the new “owner” fails to register the animal. In any event, in a pet custody dispute a court could find that a person who has cared for another person’s animal for four years without any remuneration “owns” the animal (on the grounds that the prior “owner” gave the animal away or abandoned the animal). The court could also decide it is in the animal’s interests to remain where he has been cared for over the last four years, although many courts do not base their pet custody decisions solely on the animal’s best interests.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is my cousin responsible for anything that happens to my dog while she was under her care?
Q:

I lived with my dad at the time and he got a long term guest and she has no bone in her neck. My dog Melody is very hyper so she had to go somewhere untill we could get our own house, or the guest moved out. My cousin said she would take her untill one of those things happened. When we talked about it I let her know she was in heat. When she called becore coming to get her I told her again. Once she got here I told her again as we were trying to get melody packed up. I gave her all the things she needed and she decided she was gonna get the dog food for conveinence. Now, my cousin tells me that she might be pregnant from her dog. Because of that and some other issues, that I don't believe happened, she wants her gone. I can't have her back yet so I found her another temporary home.   

Does my cousin have any responsibility in this?
Can I do anything about the emotional stress my dog is going through because of this?
Is she allowed to take my dog to the humane society?
What can I do if she does?

A:

If litigated, a court might find that a person who voluntarily gave possession of a dog in heat to a person who had an unneutered dog assumed the risk that the dog would become impregnated and is not entitled to compensation if this occurs. Courts do not award money for a dog’s emotional distress. In fact, this whole situation could have been avoided if the dogs were spayed and neutered. Generally, a temporary caretaker of an animal does not have the authority to relinquish the animal to a humane society or to anyone else without the animal’s “owner’s” permission (although some states provide a specific mechanism for animals to be deemed abandoned if not retrieved by their “owners” within a specified time period). These laws generally require written notice be given to the animal’s “owner” before the animal can be deemed abandoned. However, often these laws only mention animals at a veterinary facility (such as Indiana’s law) or kennel. Even without such laws, animals left for a much longer time that agreed upon may be deemed abandoned, depending on the facts and circumstances. People should  attempt to retrieve their pets before their pets are given away. Once an animal is given away, it can be very difficult to get the animal returned. Consider also that sometimes “ownership” is not all that clear and a person in possession of an animal could allege that he/she is not just a caretaker, but that the animal was given to him/her.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is the vet liable for the death of a dog?
Q:

I had a YOUNG 3 YR OLD healthy young service dog peekapoo that the vet killed.They are saying they did nothing wrong. We are heartbroken and I did write to the vet medicine board. We need anwers and help. My husband has cancer and Beau, the dogs name, was there by his side everyday we believe he helped him with his cancer, he was his companion, and the vet took him away from us.


A:

I am so sorry to hear about your dog. In addition to making a complaint with a state’s veterinary licensing board, an individual who believes that a veterinarian’s negligence caused harm to or death of his/her animal can sue for monetary damages (money). It is sometimes necessary in such cases for the plaintiff to have an expert witness (such as another veterinarian) who will testify that the conduct of the veterinarian being sued was negligent and caused the animal to be harmed or to die.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can a breeder keep a desposit?
Q:

I put a deposit down on a puppy so the seller can hold hte puppy for me until it can leave its mom. I texted the breeder and asked if they could send pictures of the dad because the mom looked bigger than what we were thinking and if we changed our minds can we get our deposit back. Last text from them was; "the dog clearly isn't welcomed in your home so I hope you find what you are looking for good bye". I didn't cancel the deposit, I just asked if that was something we could do. She will not respond to me now. Does she have to give us the dog or the money back or can she just keep the money?


A:

The issue of whether a deposit for an animal is refundable is usually addressed in a contract. Breeders' contracts vary but often provide that the deposit is not refundable if the purchaser chooses not to go through with the deal. An aggrieved purchaser can commence a lawsuit for either specific performance (the animal) or money (for example, the deposit) if a purchaser believes that a breeder is breaching a contract by refusing to sell the animal and refusing to refund the deposit.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How long does the owner have to reclaim their pets?
Q:

A neighbor was evicted and abandoned all her pets, a dog and several cats. I took them in and have had them for 8 months and have been trying to find homes for them. All the cats were pregnant and had kittens. The dog also became pregnant and had puppies. The owner now has reappeared and is demanding the dog and puppies so she can sell the puppies. Does she have the right to claim them?

A:

It is against Pennsylvania’s cruelty to animals law to abandon an animal. Law enforcement authorities should be notified when animals are abandoned. A person who believes that his/her animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a civil action for the return of the animals. Courts would likely be very reluctant to order the return of animals (and their offspring) to a person who moved and left their animals behind for eight months, even if such person was not convicted of animal abandonment.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Falsely accused of neglect.
Q:

My pekingese is a very old dog not exactly sure but she's about 11 or 12 years old. She did have a messed up home haircut so she looked rough when she ran away. She was is good shape other than being incontinent when she ran away or was taken. The police in my town found her and thought she had a lot of issues like  side wounds, missing hair, burns, possible tumors, etc. She had none of that besides the messed up haircut and bad skin when she left. Could they charge me with neglect even though I have proof to dispute. I have pictures taken before she left showing nothing other than bad haircut/skin. She is not neglected. What should I do?


A:

Individuals who are charged with animal cruelty/neglect (or any crime) will have the opportunity to present a defense. People who cannot afford to pay for an attorney are often represented by a court appointed attorney.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Am I entitled to a refund for paying a vet bill for an animal I do not own?
Q:

If I have paid a vet bill for a cat I do not own, the owner was abroad and left the cat with no supervision, am I entitled to a refund from the owner for the bill?


A:

A court could rule that a pet “owner” must reimburse a caretaker for veterinary expenses incurred for the “owner’s” animal. Issues that might arise in such a lawsuit include the authority of the caretaker to incur the veterinary charges (for example, was the “owner’s”  consent obtained or even sought and was the animal so ill or injured that the failure to get the “owner’s” consent was reasonable under the circumstances). Important to note as well is that persons who have taken custody of an animal can be charged with neglect if they fail to provide adequately for the animal. Animal abandonment is also against the law and local law enforcement authorities should be notified when this occurs.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is a rescue liable for an animals behavior?
Q:

We wanted to bring a 3rd dog into our family.  We have a 13 year old male Jack Russell and 7 year old female rat terrier.  I went thru the process filling out application and paying the fee to take in a rescue. On the application it asked what would keep me from adopting the pet.  I wrote aggression.  I met the dog and introduced the dog to my two dogs and we took the rescue dog in.  Two week later the rescue killed our prescious rat terrier.  We are heart broken. Is rescue responsible for anything? Do they have any guidelines that are held to them?

A:

I am very sorry to hear about the death of your dog. Often adoption agreements provide that the shelter or rescue organization will not be liable for any harm or damage caused by the animal. There are so many variables that can contribute to an animal acting differently in a new home than at a shelter, rescue, pet store, or breeder. Unless there is evidence demonstrating that the adoption entity or seller knew about a dog’s dangerous propensities and failed to disclose it, it is unlikely that they will be held responsible for the dog’s subsequent behavior in a new home.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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