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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 I be fined by Animal Control if they've never seen my dog?
Q:

There is a crazy lady down my road, and she called and complained that my sweet dog (who had gotten out of the fence, we have since fixed it) was aggressive and attacked her. My dog didn't bite her, but I find it hard to believe she was aggressive. There are dogs wandering our neighborhood that will try to attack our car as we are driving. There is also a dog that runs around that makes me fearful to walk my kids to the car. A neighbor warned me that someone called animal control so I called them and gave them my address, but they had nothing on record for me. I was concerned that they didn't leave a letter and I didn't want to lose my dogs, I was willing to cooperate fully! Turns out they mailed the letter to the wrong address and are trying to fine me (thousands of dollars) for not responding to the letter. But I never received it. They threatened to take my dogs. But I just don't understand how they can fine me, when they never came out to see my dog, to see if she's aggressive. And fine me for not cooperating with them, when I tried. Please tell me what to do.

A:

I suggest you consult with an attorney in your area who can ascertain what charges have been filed against you. For example, are you being cited for an unleashed dog (although I have never seen a fine for an unleashed dog in the thousands of dollars)? Were you scheduled to appear at a dangerous dog hearing? These hearings are sometimes held when it is alleged that a dog bit or attacked a person or other animal. Is there an allegation of animal abuse or neglect? Persons convicted of animal abuse or neglect can be subject to substantial fines, imprisonment, and sometimes the forfeiture of the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can my dog be taken away if I haven't had him to the vet in years?
Q:

I haven't brought my dog into a vet for over 3-5 years and I'm scared they might take my dog away. Will they take my dog away because of that reason?

A:

I hope your dog is healthy and that you get necessary medical care for your dog. There is no specific legal requirement regarding how often one must bring his/her animal to a veterinarian (although there are some laws requiring rabies vaccinations). Generally, one’s animal would not be confiscated solely because the animal has not been to a veterinarian for a long time. In fact, since some people utilize the services of more than one veterinarian, a veterinarian would not necessarily know that an animal has not been to a veterinarian for a few years (unless the animal appears to have been neglected). Every state has a cruelty to animals law. Washington State’s law provides, in part, “An owner of an animal is guilty of animal cruelty … if …the owner knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence... fails to provide the animal with necessary shelter, rest, sanitation, space, or medical attention and the animal suffers unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain as a result of the failure…” The law further provides, “…it shall be an affirmative defense, if established by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant's failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant's control.” Persons convicted of cruelty to animals may be ordered to forfeit their animals. Many states have laws pertaining to veterinarians reporting suspected cases of animal abuse to law enforcement authorities. Some states mandate it. Some states (such as Washington) allow veterinarians to make such a report in good faith and other states don’t have a law addressing this issue.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
As a pet boarder, what recourse do I have when owners abandon their pets?
Q:

I own a pet boarding facility and am having a number of owners abandon their pets while in our care. Do I have any recourse?  I am unable to get any response from the owners and will be sending them certified letters soon but not certain how to word it or what the legal status is.
Any advice will be appreciated, I've acquired 4 in the past few months.
Thank you!

A:

Many states, including Georgia, have laws which provide that an animal left at a veterinarian or boarding kennel may be deemed abandoned if the animal is not retrieved by the animal’s “owner” within a specified time after demand to retrieve the animal is made. Georgia’s law provides, in part, “If the charges due … are not paid within ten days after the demand … on the owner of the animal … or if the animal … is not picked up within ten days after the demand, … which demand shall be made in person or by registered or certified mail or statutory overnight delivery with return receipt requested and addressed to the owner at the address given when the animal … was delivered, the animal … shall be deemed to be abandoned and the licensed veterinarian or operator of a facility is authorized to dispose of the animal … in such manner as such veterinarian or operator shall determine.” For a full copy of the law, contact an attorney or legislator in your state. The abandonment laws in some states have been interpreted to require the release of the animal to the “owner” if the “owner” responds to the demand letter in a timely manner even if payment is not made. The entity would still have a claim for payment but the animal cannot be held “hostage” pending payment.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Do I have enough proof of ownership to get my pitt bull puppy back from my ex?
Q:

A few months ago I bought a 6week old pit bull puppy from my friend, it was for me and my girlfriend. Well a month later we broke up and she kept the dog. She didn't pay for her. I paid for the shots and food and toys. I also have a signed statement from the friend I bought the dog from saying I am the one she sold the dog to. Is this enough to get my dog back if I take it to court? Or if I show the police? I'm not sure how to go about this situation


A:

The police do not generally get involved in pet custody disputes unless they believe pet theft is involved (which is usually not the situation when two ex-partners/spouses are claiming rights to a “shared” animal). One can commence a civil lawsuit for the return of an animal who he/she believes is being wrongfully withheld. While proof of purchase or adoption is one indication of “ownership,” it does not tell the whole story. Courts will consider other evidence. For example, sometimes an animal is purchased by one person but then given to another person as a gift. Leaving an animal behind when a relationship ends may (or may not depending on the circumstances) also indicate an intent to relinquish whatever “ownership” rights one may have. I hope you are all putting the dog’s best interests first. Not that this is your motivation, but all too often ex-partners and divorcing spouses use pet custody as a means to hurt the other person and overlook what is really best for the animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I be forced to euthanize my dog over freak accident?
Q:

So I have a 75 pound dog that has been the best choice I ever made. There was a cat already there when I got her and my dog and the first cat stay out of each others way. We rented a room out and this person had 2 cats and a dog and the dogs are best friends. But one time while not in the house the door to the room with the cats was opened and not properly locked so the kitten and my dog came in contact and well the kitten was killed. My dog has never acted this way towards another dog or humans as well as the cat that was already there before her. She wants me to put the dog down but it was a freak accident. The owner of the kitten has told me to either put the dog down or it will go to small claims court


A:

 I am so sorry to hear about the tragic incident. Ohio’s dangerous dog law does not provide for the euthanasia of dogs who kill a cat. However, Ohio is one of several states that has a strict liability dog bite law (meaning that often the owner of a dog is responsible for his/her dog’s actions, unless the dog was being tormented by the victim or the victim was trespassing or committing some other criminal offense at the time of the incident). Nevertheless, if the kitten’s “owner” sues in a small claims court, there is no assurance that a court would find in her favor (or award her very much money) particularly since you were living in the same house (an argument can possibly be made that the cat's "owner"  was also harboring the dog). I hope all of the animals are now provided with a safe and humane environment.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can you keep a dog from owners who have abused it?
Q:

A beautiful dog was witnessed being abused by its owner and thrown on to the street. It has been living with a loving family for a few days but the owners have posted a Wanted sign with a reward.
The dog is happy and safe now, the new family wants to adopt him. How can they go about adopting him and proving his abuse (they have an eyewitness who wants to make a statement)?
Thank you!


A:

Cruelty to animals is against the law. Individuals who witness cruelty to animals should contact their local police and SPCA (society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) which have the authority to arrest persons who violate animal cruelty laws and to seize victimized animals. However, there is no guarantee that the person making the animal cruelty report or the person who rescued the animal will be given the opportunity to adopt the animal.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Looking for a pet friendly lawyer.
Q:

Are there any places to find pet-friendly lawyers, especially in Tennessee?

A:

In addition to checking online, one can contact local and state bar associations for referrals to attorneys who handle animal related legal matters. Also, since local humane societies sometimes work with attorneys they may be able to provide names of “pet-friendly” lawyers. Animal law is a very broad field and not every “pet-friendly” attorney has the same expertise. For example, an individual facing eviction would generally be best served by a “pet-friendly” landlord-tenant lawyer; a person wishing to include a pet trust in a will or other document should retain a lawyer with trusts and estates expertise; and a person seeking to sue someone for negligently harming his/her animal would typically retain a lawyer with personal injury experience. Therefore, when seeking an attorney referral one should be specific regarding the type of help that is needed.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Uncle euthanized my 2 cats without permission.
Q:

Hi, I had to give up 2 of my rescue cats because of my doctors saying I should not have indoor cats; and should not be scooping litter or letting cats sleep with me (I have an autoimmune liver disease PSC). Anyway, my son's uncle offered to take Neo & Zeke (both healthy Neo was 10 & Zeke was only 4-5 yrs old). I just found out that 3 months ago (cats were only with him 8 months) he decided that they were an inconvenience & had them both put down!! He never called my son or me to see if we could take them back!! I'm so angry, sad & guilty for sending them to their deaths by giving them to the uncle! I would have taken them back & found homes or even put in a doggie door so they would not need a litter box - is there any legal recourse? Or do I just have to live with this because I THOUGHT they were going to a loving new home, thank u for any advice.

A:

How tragic. Generally, a person has no further rights to an animal that he/she gives away or sells (unless there is an agreement stating otherwise). Thus, when the person to whom the animal was given or sold subsequently gives the animal away, sells the animal, or has the animal euthanized, the original “owner”  typically has no legal recourse.
 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I keep my Mom from leaving dog outside?
Q:

I live with my mom and I have a dog that I take care of, not her, and I walk her and pay for everything. If she takes my dog and ties her outside cause she doesn't want her in the house anymore is there anything i can do?

A:

In these situations, one can move, find another family for the dog where she will be allowed in the house and treated humanely, or work out the existing controversy so that the dog can have a comfortable place in the house. Not only is tethering dogs outdoors for extended periods of time unlawful in a few NY municipalities, it is also cruel. In addition, there is a NY statewide dog shelter law (which requires shelter appropriate to the dog’s breed, physical condition and climate) and a cruelty to animals law which, among other things, requires that animals be provided with necessary sustenance and prohibits the causing of unjustifiable suffering. The police are authorized to enforce these laws as are societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals and other designated officers. 


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Are NY pet stores required to micro-chip puppies?
Q:

Are pet stores in NY required to chip puppies before they are sold? I was told this by a pet store owner. I was looking to buy a puppy, he said this is the law

A:

There is legislation pending before the New York City Council to require pet stores to microchip dogs and cats before releasing the animals to a purchaser. The bill has not passed yet. Microchips help to reunite lost animals with their guardians. No question about that. While it is also a good idea to keep tags on collars, they can be removed or fall off so a microchip provides added protection.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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