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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 Pet Sales/Pet Stores/Breeders Inquiries:


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 breeder take my dog back after I've been caring for it?
Q:

My boyfriend and I were given a dog for free by the breeder who is MY BOYFRIENDS friend. The breeder, my boyfriend, and everybody else who knows us has said multiple times how well I take care of her and that I really seem like the primary caregiver. I am even the one she is registered to when receiving her pedigree. My boyfriend broke up with me while I was in the hospital two weeks ago. he said many times I should still have her. I have been taking care of her alone again ever since I got out. I am slowly getting better and she is still very well taken care of! Now the breeder has decided she wants to take the dog back. She reasons because of my health and because she intended the dog to be for my boyfriend, but I think she is just afraid if I am the sole caregiver we will lose touch and she will not be able to breed her. My dog is blind in one eye so that's another whole issue. My question is: does she have the right or should I fight this?

A:

Generally when a person (breeder or anyone else) gives his/her animal away, such person has no further rights to that animal, unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. If a person believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld, such person can sue to try to get the animal returned (although as noted above, once an animal is given away it can be difficult to get a court to order the animal to be returned).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Kitten died from FIP and Pet Store will not give refund.
Q:

We purchased a Persian kitten from a pet store and 4 months later the kitten died. The emergency Vet we took our kitten to thought it was a "normal" respiratory issue when we first arrived, but 3 days later he was dumbfounded as he had to euthanize my kitten. After we went over the symptoms again, he said my kitten had to have died from FIP. I spoke to the pet store after reading the 14 day warranty that states that the kitten is to be from FIP (among other viruses), and was told they never actually tested the kitten for FIP. Pet store is refusing to work with me on the purchase, refund or providing store credit. Should I contact an attorney. I know I am past the 14 days, however, they never tested for FIP and the kitten could not have contracted the virus while in my care as FIP is contracted cat to cat contact with feces and saliva. Its just me and my fiance with out kitten. ‚Äč

A:

I am very sorry to hear about your loss. Florida’s pet sale law provides that each cat offered for sale must have received certain vaccines and deworming treatment prior to sale and that “A pet dealer may not knowingly misrepresent the breed, sex, or health of any dog or cat offered for sale within the state.” The pet sale law further provides that its provisions do not “limit the rights or remedies that are otherwise available to a consumer under any other law.” Even if consumers do not make a timely claim under their state’s pet sale law, they may have rights under other laws, such as the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC provides remedies to people who purchase goods (including animals) that are unmerchantable (unfit for sale). Individuals who cannot reach a satisfactory settlement with a pet dealer can sue. It may be difficult to win a case when an animal did not show evidence of a virus until several months after purchase.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Online breeder wants more money to ship my puppy.
Q:

I just purchased my husky puppy online and the seller took it to a company to get him sent to me and they want to charge me an additional $785 for a crate to send him in. I was not aware of an additional fee when I sent the $250 for my puppy. The company has him now and will not let me go and pick him up. And they're saying it will be sent to a shelter if I don't pay the money. What can I do?

A:

This sounds as if this could be a scam. Consider contacting the police and the Indiana Attorney General’s (AG) Consumer Protection Division. The AG’s office investigates consumer complaints. It is risky to purchase an animal online. It is even possible the animal being offered for sale does not even exist! Consider adopting a homeless animal from your local animal shelter or rescue group.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How do I claim legal ownership of my dog?
Q:

I bought a dog that's AKC registered. But the breeder I got him from said she was keeping his papers because of breeding rights. She is still listed as his legal registered owner on his papers. How do you go about getting his papers and becoming his legal owner on the papers so I can have full AKC and breeding rights to him? I may never breed him but if I wanted to I want to be able to do it and register the litter too. She said if I ever wanted to breed him to call her because she has a female like him. Please help!!



A:

It is important for individuals to carefully read and fully understand their rights and obligations prior to purchasing an animal. Breeders sometimes include provisions regarding breeding and co-ownership rights in their contracts. If the seller agreed to but failed to provide AKC or other registration papers to the purchaser, the purchaser can sue to try to get the papers or reimbursement for at least part of the purchase price of the animal. New York attempts to place a monetary value on such papers (which may/may not be persuasive in other states without a similar law). The NY law provides that pet dealers who promised but failed to provide the registration documents in a timely manner (generally within 120 days from sale) must give the purchaser a partial refund of 75% of the animal's purchase price. Consider that there are so many wonderful animals at shelters just waiting for a second chance for a loving home.


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.