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Pet Legal Questions & Answers

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Elinor D. Molbegott, is an attorney who maintains a law practice devoted to animal law. Elinor donates her time to answer questions North Shore Animal League America supporters who would like to learn more about animal law.
Elinor wil field as many questions as she can and they will be posted here on this site. Due to the volume of questions received, not all questions are answered. However, many individuals have similar questions. You may find helpful information in the categories listed below.

Featured Question

Other, Housing:

Q:

I hired a realtor to find me an apartment that accepted dogs. The listing on the computer says that the building indeed accepted dogs. The day I went to sign the lease the lease claimed that dogs were not allowed. I was still advised by the realtor to sign the lease and did so out of desperation, we were homeless. There are dogs on every floor of my building and some just as big as my dog if not bigger. I've lived here 6 months now and the landlord sent me a notarized letter from the courts to get rid of the dog or face eviction. I got the dog registered as an emotional support dog online and read online if I keep a dog openly and notoriously and the landlord or his employee know about the dog and don't decide to take legal actions within 3 months then the rule is not enforced and they waive the right for me to keep him. Is this true? How should I proceed?

Read Full Answer...
A:

NYC pet law provides that that if a tenant keeps a pet or pets openly with the knowledge of the landlord (owner) or owner's agent, and the owner does not commence a legal proceeding within 3 months to enforce a no-pet lease provision, the no-pet lease provision is waived for that pet(s). (NYC Administrative Code, § 27-2009.1). Sometimes after tenants (or their attorneys) remind landlords of this law, the landlord will not proceed any further (but sometimes landlords commence legal actions anyway---although they do not always win!). Westchester has a similar law. There are also laws that protect people with emotional support or service animals. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), if a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity and the animal works, provides assistance, or performs services for such person, or provides emotional support that "alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability," the housing provider must make an exception to a "no-pets" rule or policy. It is often helpful for tenants to get a letter from their health care provider that makes it very clear that the animal is medically necessary. According to HUD rules, housing providers should evaluate requests for assistance animals as follows:

(I) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability - i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?

People who believe that they are being discriminated against for having emotional support or service animals can file a complaint with HUD (www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm, 1-800-669-9777).

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Most Recent Adoption Inquiries:


Shelter said dog was spayed, but was not.
Q:

I adopted a dog from a shelter and they stated, and even gave me paper stating, she was spayed. Six months now she has gone into heat. I called them and they said I must bring her down there (2 hours away) if I wanted her to be spayed. I feel that is not a way I want to go, especially to bring her back where it terrified her. I asked them to give money towards the spaying and they said no. Is there anything legally I can do? Is it right that they gave me a paper saying spayed dog and she's not?

A:

It was likely an honest mistake. Sometimes adoption agreements contain provisions regarding spaying/neutering (although these days many shelters spay/neuter prior to releasing animals for adoption). Generally if an adopter chooses not to avail himself/herself of the free or low-cost spay/neuter services that the shelter/rescue offers, the adopter is responsible for paying for the spaying/neutering. People who believe they are owed money can sue. I hope your dog is doing well.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can Rescue organization take dog I adopted back if I try to find it a new home?
Q:

Hello a rescue org came to my house and took back a dog I adopted because they found out I was trying to find a home for him (because he had anxiety and my other dog was making it worse). They came last night with a police officer so I thought I had no choice but to give him to her. But, is the dog legally mine still? They dramatically pulled him out of the house in front of my children and we are all very upset. I still have the paperwork. I want him back now as we were only going to rehome him if we found the right family. Do I have any legal recourse?

A:

I suggest you read your adoption agreement. Adoption agreements sometimes contain provisions requiring adopters to return animals they no longer wish to keep to the shelter or rescue. In this way, the shelter or rescue can screen new potential adopters using their own standards (which may be higher than standards used by an adopter looking to re-home the animal). People who believe their animals are being wrongfully withheld can sue (replevin action) to try to get the animals returned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is puppy contract barring breeding valid?
Q:

The puppy contract states that we promise not to use the dog for breeding. There is no penalty listed for violating the clause or contract in general. Is the statement valid?

A:

A contract does not need to have a specific penalty clause in order to be valid. I suggest you get the dog spayed/neutered anyway. Spaying/neutering not only help to curb the serious overpopulation of dogs and cats but also provide health benefits.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can I get cat back from my mom?
Q:

My mom has a cat that is under my name. But because I was sick for a little bit she has had it over a month . Am I allowed to get the cat back without the court? W hat are the steps?

A:

One�s right to remove a cat from the cat�s present location depends on the situation. There are issues of theft and trespassing that could arise in certain circumstances particularly when the parties have a different view about an animal�s �ownership.� A microchip registration is one indication of �ownership� but does not always prove �ownership.� If litigated, courts will consider the totality of the evidence presented, such as what transpired after the microchip registration (for example, was the animal sold, given away, abandoned, or boarded). I hope that you and your mother can work out the cat�s custody arrangement in an amicable way that considers the cat�s best interests.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Can 501c3 Rescue sue adopter who sold adopted dog to 3rd party?
Q:

Hi! Our 501c3 rescue adopted out a dog. Adopters signed a contract that states should they not be able to keep him he is to be returned to our rescue. They sold him to a third party thus breeching our contract. Animal Control and police won't confiscate the dog despite him being microchipped to us. Can we sue adopter and third party and get our dog back?

A:

Animal rescue groups can sue to try to reclaim animals based on a breach of an adoption agreement. Whether a court will order an animal returned is another story as these cases get more complicated after an animal has been re-homed (in large part since the new adopter never signed the agreement with the rescue). Sometimes these situations can be resolved more amicably if the rescue and adopter work together (for example, the adopter provides veterinary records, etc. to demonstrate that the animal is being cared for in a humane manner which may allay the concerns of the rescue).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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PLEASE NOTE: Responses to legal inquiries are not meant to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney in your state. The materials in this website and any responses to questions are for informational purposes only and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. This website, the information contained herein, and any responses to questions directed to this column are not intended to create and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely or act upon any information provided on this website or in any response to your inquiry without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.


Reminder...

      Responses to legal inquiries are not meant to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney in your state. The materials in this website and any responses to questions are for informational purposes only and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. This website, the information contained herein, and any responses to questions directed to this column are not intended to create and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely or act upon any information provided on this website or in any response to your inquiry without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.