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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 we get our dog back from my husband's ex-coworker?
Q:

My dog was given to us as a gift by my husband's coworker (he works at a dog facility). We had the dog for 3 weeks now and she asked my husband to bring the dog to work because she "missed" him and wanted to see the dog. My husband took the dog to work and went on his lunch break and came back to the dog missing. She took the dog and won't give it back to us. Is this illegal and how can we get the dog back? She no longer works there and will not answer phone calls.

A:

One can sue for the return of an animal wrongfully withheld. If there is no written adoption/sale agreement, courts have to determine the true ‘facts.’ Often, parties have different stories to tell. Although the police can enforce pet theft laws, they usually do not get involved in pet custody/’ownership’ disputes between individuals who know each other.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can I do about an owner who abandoned their cat and now wants it back?
Q:

A neighbor where I live and work abandoned a cat and when we tried to give it back she said her cat was dead and it's not hers (she's a drug addict). Her mother came to move her out (she was sent a 3 day + 60 day notice to vacate) and thanked me for taking the cat (never said anything about taking it back). 26 days after she abandoned it she called and asked for her cat. It's now 7 weeks and she's threatening me. I told her to go to court; it's a civil matter. My boss might fire me because I won't give her the cat back without letting a judge decide. I am heartsick and worried about the welfare of this cat. I live in CA.

A:

If your neighbor sues you for the return of the cat, the judge will consider the evidence and determine who “owns” the cat now. Sometimes courts consider the best interests of the animal when determining pet custody (although one should not count on that). The court might consider evidence regarding the condition of the cat when you first took the cat, both to determine the best interests of the cat and whether the cat was abandoned. The court will likely also try to determine whether the cat was given to you on a temporary or permanent basis. I hope your boss stays out of this situation and that all works out well for the cat.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What should I consider if I want to have a puppy training class in my home?
Q:

I am a dog trainer and I am thinking about having puppy socialization classes in my home. What kind of legal ramifications will this bring on? Do I need separate insurance? If my clients sign a contract will that protect me? Any advice I can get is a big help. Thank you.

A:

I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area who can advise you about local zoning laws, which may affect whether you can conduct your business in your home. An attorney can also advise you about whether forming a corporation would be prudent. Contracts, if well drafted, can provide some protection from liability, but generally do not protect against all possibilities. I suggest that contracts be drafted by an attorney. I also suggest that you consult with your insurance company regarding the scope of your current insurance and insurance needs for your business. Not only can insurance protect against certain potential liabilities but can cover defense costs in the event one is sued. Defense costs (attorneys’ fees and other litigation related expenses) can be very expensive.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get my dog back from the breeder after my family emergencies?
Q:

My Mikey has been sick, I had blood work done. His enzymes were very high. I couldn't afford the ultra sound, so my vet tried antibiotic lactose and low protein dog food. My daughters had a hysterectomy, then found out she needed a pacemaker. While I'm helping my daughter and Mikey, I get a call from my other daughter who was in a car accident and was in I.C.U. - she broke her femur bone. I left one daughter to go to another because she has a 3 year old. I was telling the breeder everything that's been going on and she offered to help me with Mikey. I thought that was nice. I brought her his meds and food and vet papers in case he got sick. Now I go to get him and she tells me she is not giving him back. I called the police and they tell me 9/10 of the law she has possession. I have proof he's mine and the sign paid in full but she will not give me back my baby boy Mikey. April 26, 2013 I put my baby in her hands and on 5/12/13 I went to visit him, she said I'm not giving him back and called him Harley. I have been to the police, SPCA, I wrote to consumer affairs, to see if they would publish it under the puppy lemon law. I don't know what else to do. Please help me.

A:

Breeder contracts vary. Some of these contracts state that the breeder has the right to repossess dogs with no refund to the purchaser if the breeder determines that the dog has been abused, neglected or otherwise not cared for in a proper manner. One can sue breeders for the return of animals who are repossessed. Courts handle contract disputes.


Submitted by Helen, FL
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I have some advice on my friend's neighbor who wants his dog to be euthanized?
Q:

Hi, I am asking for a friend of mine. He has a greyhound and has never had a problem with him. A couple months ago a woman moved in next door. He was working in his yard and his dog saw the new neighbors dog (small dog) and accidentally got out of the yard and ended up biting the little dog. He took the neighbor and her dog to the hospital and paid instantly for the dogs injuries. This happened yesterday and the dog is home from the hospital. The new neighbor has threatened my friend stating that she would kill my friends dog and she knew exactly how to do it. She said that my friend has three days to get rid of his dog or she would go to the media and have his dog euthanized. He loves his dog and it never hurt anyone before. He has lived in his neighborhood for years. Do you have any advice?

A:

Dangerous dog laws generally provide mechanisms for a hearing where the evidence is presented and the magistrate determines whether or not a dog should be declared dangerous. If after a hearing the dog is determined by the magistrate to be dangerous, the magistrate usually can require the owner of the dangerous dogs to take certain actions. While the laws differ, remedies often include spaying/neutering, procurement of insurance, muzzling, confinement, or euthanasia. The magistrate generally can order one or more actions be taken. Dogs who harm another companion animal are rarely ordered to be euthanized. The dangerous dog laws in some areas do not even address dog attacks on other companion animals.

Cruelty to animals is against the law in every state. Your friend’s neighbor could be prosecuted if she intentionally kills or injures your friend’s dog, unless the neighbor does so to defend herself or her dog at the time she or her dog is being attacked. To protect his dog and his neighbor's dog, your friend should take better precautions to ensure that his dog does not accidentally get out of his yard.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Who has rights to the dog I was looking after for 3 weeks?
Q:

I contacted a girl and she said can me and my partner look after her dog for 3 weeks. This was done via email. We said yes. We met her and she said face to face we could have the dog. But now she is saying the 3 weeks are up and she wants her dog back. Who has what rights? And me and my partner had even taken (her dog) to the vets as it needed an operation and was very skinny. We also provided food and spent money on this dog. We have even got it microchipped in my name. What can she do? And can anyone take the dog off us?

A:

If one agrees to care for another person’s dog for a limited amount of time (such as three weeks), the temporary caregiver does not typically gain “ownership” of that animal. When these cases are litigated, courts will review the facts, including, for example, if there were advertisements that stated the arrangement was temporary or permanent, if the animal was left for much longer than originally indicated, and if anything happened after the original agreement was made which demonstrates that the agreement changed. The police will usually not get involved in animal custody disputes unless they believe pet theft is involved (which is more likely when the dispute involves strangers rather than family members, roommates, or couples).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
I recently had decided to find a family for a dog I had helped with issues because of a court surrender
Q:

I recently had decided to find a family for a dog I had helped with issues because of a court surrender. I had gotten this dog about 6 years ago and a couple of months ago I found people with kids and he seemed to be comfortable to be with them. I have kept up with him and found out they had gotten another dog that was aggressive towards him and just received an email about him being so stressed that he was throwing up blood. That was what their vet told them. I am wondering if I have a legal right to get this dog back.

A:

I recently had decided to find a family for a dog I had helped with issues because of a court surrender. I had gotten this dog about 6 years ago and a couple of months ago I found people with kids and he seemed to be comfortable to be with them. I have kept up with him and found out they had gotten another dog that was aggressive towards him and just received an email about him being so stressed that he was throwing up blood. That was what their vet told them. I am wondering if I have a legal right to get this dog back.


Submitted by Dawn, VA
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My friend has a dog and two cats that were taken from him and housed while he was incarcerated
Q:

My friend has a dog and two cats (much loved and very well cared for, in fact they're his world) that were taken from him and housed while he was incarcerated for 7 months. He was released on bail, had his trial and is awaiting his sentencing hearing in August 2013. The woman who placed his pets in other homes refuses to furnish him with ANY information concerning the whereabouts of his pets. To say the man is suffering because of the loss of his beloved pets is an understatement. Is this legal?

A:

It is unclear if there was a boarding agreement between your friend and the woman who placed his animals, whether your friend permanently relinquished his pets, or whether the pets were seized by a law enforcement officer at the time of arrest. When one permanently relinquishes an animal, generally such person does not have the legal right to be informed of the animal’s whereabouts, unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. When one boards an animal, one generally would have rights to that animal. However, there are laws in some states which provide for the termination of an “owner’s” rights if the person with whom the animal is boarded provides notice to the "owner" giving such “owner” a specified period of time to retrieve the animal. Boarding facilities sometimes utilize these laws when boarding fees have not been paid. Also, some boarding contracts contain abandonment provisions for failure to redeem an animal on time or to pay fees. When animals are seized by a law enforcement officer at the time of arrest, the animals’ “owners” can sometimes get their animals returned if they pay the expenses incurred in caring for the animals. If your friend is awaiting sentencing, it is possible that he will be imprisoned again in which case the animals would still need someone else to care for them. I hope the animals are doing well.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do I get my dog back?
Q:

I left my dog in another state with some of my family. I gave them everything he needed. Now that I am able to go back and get the dog they won't give him back. If I can't get my dog back, can I have him put down? What should I do they are trying to sell my dog?

A:

It is unclear how long the dog has been with your family and what arrangements you made with your family when you left the dog with them. Animal custody disputes that cannot be resolved amicably are sometimes litigated in court. Frankly, it is alarming that you are inquiring about having the dog killed. I hope that the dog gets a humane home.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What are my rights as a foster parent?
Q:

Hi. My fiancee and I are currently fostering a dog for a Rescue that is well-meaning, but poorly equipped to care for animals. We have kept the dog in order to spare it having to go back to the Rescue, which is filthy and packed with animals stacked up in crates far too small for them. We have been working with them to bring the dog to the vet for his shots and to make a groomers appointment, etc. and were just told that he has an appointment at 5pm Friday and that his "adopters will take him from there." This seems to imply they have adopted the dog out without ever having done a meet and greet or allowing us to provide input, not to mention that we can't get the dog there by 5pm anyway.

I wonder what our legal rights are to keep the dog until they agree to have the potential adopters meet him? We are paying for his food and transportation to and from vet appointments and to get home during the day to walk him, etc. - I think we should have some say, especially since the Rescue is such a mess? We did not fill out any paperwork with them or sign a contract of any kind - they don't even know where we live. Thank you for your advice.

A:

Unless there is an agreement stating otherwise, usually individuals who foster animals do not have rights to dictate adoption procedures for the shelter or rescue that placed the animal in foster care. Perhaps if you want to adopt the dog, the shelter or rescue would consider that. If you believe that animals are being neglected, contact your local SPCA or police.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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