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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 Negligence Inquiries:


My roomate intentionally lets dog out.
Q:

One of my roommates is always opening the door, so then my dog can go outside and get killed by cars or get lost. I dont know if thats a crime but everytime he does it. Its when I go out he waits about 5 minutes and then he release my dog. Can someone help me? I want to know if this is a crime, so if something happens to my little dog he will pay for it.

A:

There is really only one word I can think of to respond to your question. Move. It will be too late for your little dog if something bad happens when the door is opened. It is against the law to abandon an animal or to cruelty treat an animal but proving abandonment or cruelty in a situation where a person leaves a door open can be difficult. Ultimately, you are responsible for safeguarding your dog so I suggest that you do. That may entail putting the dog in your room when you go out, finding another place to live, or finding a safe, loving home for the dog.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
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
Who is responsible for cat bite after cat was given away?
Q:

I gave away a kitten with the areement I would take her back. Within a few hours she had bitten them. The police say I am responsible. How can this be true? at the time of the bite she was their cat.

A:

It is unclear why the police would be involved as this does not appear to be a criminal matter. Generally, a person who gives away his/her animal is not responsible for an animal bite that occurs after the adoption. However, if a person knows that an animal has a biting history (not including teething which is common with kittens and puppies) and fails to disclose it or lies about it to the adopter, a court might hold otherwise.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Won't return lost dog.
Q:

My Yorkie went missing. I posted signs & rcvd a mess. from someone who said their brother found her & gave her to their Aunt. I'll admit my dogs hair was in dire need of grooming as well as her nails, but due to a new baby in the house, my out of state wedding & traveling for the holidays I did not have the time to get her rabies shot updated so we could get her to the groomer. The lady said they don't want to return the dog because of her condition when they found her. She is not malnourished, just in need of grooming. I have receipts to prove I paid well over $1000.00 for her. What can I do?

A:

People who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a civil lawsuit for the return of their animals or sue for monetary damages (such as for the cost of the dog). People can also contact the police. Before trying to have the dog removed from her current home, consider whether you really have the time to provide the dog with the care she needs. First, the dog went missing which can indicate that the dog was not being adequately supervised. Second, the dog was �in dire need of grooming as well as her nails.� Grooming is not only for cosmetic purposes. Failure to groom certain breeds and to have nails clipped can cause health problems, pain, and discomfort. I hope the dog is doing well.< /p>
Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

What did friends do with dog they adopted from us?
Q:

We needed a good home for our dog. Gave him to some friends who wanted him just to find out they got rid of him. We asked where he went out of concern and they refuse to tell us anything. We are hoping they didnt drop him off somewhere. What can we do? We are thinking the worst.

A:

Generally when a person gives his or her animal away, such person has no further rights to that animal (unless there was an agreement stating otherwise). That would include no further rights to find out where the animal was later re-homed.


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.