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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 Cruelty/Neglect Inquiries:


How can I help neighbor's neglected dog?
Q:

My neighbor built a nice enclosure in her back yard and stuck a lab in there for four years. He barked until he lost his will. I noticed he was malnourished and did not have fresh water or clean space. I turned her into AC who did check on the dog until he put some weight on. Then it happened again with the same intervention and outcome. She will not relinquish the dog. Sometimes she yanks him out and literally throws him into a kennel and closes the garage door. How can I help him?!?!

A:

Try also contacting your local SPCA and humane society and ask that they investigate. Photos can sometimes help to show abuse and neglect. Animal cruelty laws state that animals must be provided with necessary food, water, care and shelter. People who violate these laws may be arrested and the animals may be seized and forfeited (depending on the circumstances). While these laws provide a certain level of protection, they do not generally set specific standards of care so much is left to the discretion of the officers to determine whether a violation has occurred. When the law enforcement route does not work, it is worth noting that sometimes people will eventually agree to sell their animals if the price is right.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it animal abuse if the dog spends it's life in a kennel?
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 I sue the people I gave my dog to for abandoning him?
Q:

Can I sue the people I gave my dog to for abandoning him ? Yesterday night I got a call from a lady miles away from where I live saying they found my dog. The new owners abandoned him and when I called to ask if he has escaped they lied and said the dog was with them. The day I gave my dog to the new owners I gave them a lot of stuff so that he would be well taken care of.

A:

Animal abandonment is against the law. Animal abandonment complaints should be made to the police, SPCA, and any other entities in the state with authority to enforce animal abuse laws. Generally a person who gave away his/her animal has no further claim to the animal and would likely not be entitled to any compensation if the animal were subsequently abandoned or mistreated.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is it against the law to lock a dog in a garage?
Q:

Is it against the law to lock a dog in a garage ?

A:

Ohio’s animal cruelty law provides, in part, that it is unlawful to “Deprive the companion animal of necessary sustenance, confine the companion animal without supplying it during the confinement with sufficient quantities of good, wholesome food and water, or impound or confine the companion animal without affording it, during the impoundment or confinement, with access to shelter from heat, cold, wind, rain, snow, or excessive direct sunlight, if it can reasonably be expected that the companion animal would become sick or suffer in any other way as a result of or due to the deprivation, confinement, or impoundment or confinement in any of those specified manners.” The law also provides that it is unlawful to neglect a companion animal or to commit any act which causes unnecessary or unjustifiable pain or suffering. Law enforcement officers would need to assess the particular situation in each instance to determine whether the cruelty laws are being violated.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Surrendered dog after mean boy let him out of yard.
Q:

A 13yr old boy let my dog out of my fence then called animal control saying my dog was loose. I paid fine and surrendered him. Can I get him back? I was in shock when I surrendered him. I did it same day he was taken. The boy told my sister what he had done. I'm going to say I have him on video to try and get him to admit it, but I have been sick to my stomach from stress, cant sleep or eat. My son is stressed, he's only 11. My dogs brother is stressed. The boy told my sister it was because he didn't want me to have the dog. He and his brother were treated, well always taken care of, up to date on shots. The boy is just mean. Anything I can do? If I get him on my camera in yard admitting it will that work? I really want my dog, we love him so much. I wasn't thinking when I surrendered him. Dog is being killed on 27th. I cant stand it. I have 3 sons, my human 1 and my dogs. Please help.

A:

I am so sorry to hear of your ordeal. I suggest that you immediately retain an attorney in your area. Perhaps an attorney can get a court order to stop any planned euthanasia or intervene and convince animal control to act more humanely. Typically when a person surrenders his/her animal to a shelter, such person has no further rights to that animal. Even if one could prove that an animal ended up at a shelter due to someone else’s misconduct, that misconduct would not necessarily overturn a subsequently signed surrender agreement. In any event, perhaps reason will prevail and at least the dog will not be killed. ​Good luck.


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.