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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 from North Shore Animal League America supporters who would like to learn more about animal law.
Elinor will 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 Inquiries:


Whose cat is it?
Q:

This girl couldn't take care of her cat due to the fact the apartments do not allow cats. She gave me her cat and she dropped him off at my house. I decided to rename him and she got upset. She threatened to take him away since she has all his paperwork and the microchip information. She does not have a place qualified to take care of him.

A:

Generally when a person gives away or sells his/her animal, such person has no further rights to that animal. Having the agreement in writing can help to avoid future conflicts regarding the animal�s �ownership.� Microchip, license, and other registration and veterinary records should be changed when �ownership� changes. Even if they are not changed, an animal�s microchip and license registration and other indicia of �ownership� do not always prove �ownership,� particularly when there is evidence that subsequent to registering the animal�s microchip or license, the animal was sold, given away, or abandoned.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What can be done for abandoned dog?
Q:

My cousin has been caring for a dog for 11 months without any financial compensations or reply to texts from the owners. The vet will not treat dog without documentation from owner. What can be done? Is this a case of abandonment?

A:

First, try another veterinarian. People who board animals are responsible for providing the animals with humane treatment and can be prosecuted for neglecting animals in their care. It would be up to a court to definitively decide whether under the facts and circumstances the �owner� abandoned an animal. Sometimes this issue is addressed in the boarding agreement and sometimes by law (some states in addition to criminal animal abandonment laws have laws requiring veterinarians or others who board animals to give written notice to an �owner� that the animal will be deemed abandoned within a certain number of days). Hawaii�s criminal animal abandonment law states: �It shall be unlawful for the owner of any animal or any person in possession of an animal that belongs to another person to leave the animal without the intention of returning to it. Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor.�


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Does new owner have to relinquish dog if they change mind?
Q:

Can a person give her dog away to someone else,then a month later decide they want it back? Does the new owner have to relinquish the dog back after it was given to her?

A:

Generally when a person gives his/her animal away, such person has no further rights to that animal unless there was an agreement stating otherwise.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How can I get replacement AKC papers?
Q:

Cousin give me a pair of AKC boxers, however he said he can't find the papers for the dogs. How can I get those AKC papers?

A:

Contact AKC. There is a procedure for replacement paperwork. Next time consider adopting a homeless animal from a shelter/rescue.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Shelter will not approve adoption because roommates smoke.
Q:

I was denied adopting any animals at a shelter I had volunteered at because my roommates smoke. After I inquired about adopting, I began receiving negative feedback about the "smell" and have since been told to consider volunteering at a different shelter. Is this discriminatory? I would like to adopt but is this going to be a problem at any other shelter as well?

A:

Adoption policies at animal shelters differ. Due to the harmful effects of second hand smoke on animals, some shelters (as you have seen) will not adopt to a person if there is a smoker in the household. Not all shelters/rescues have this policy.


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.