Can my sibling take her cat back after 3 years?

////Can my sibling take her cat back after 3 years?

Question

My sister and her boyfriend adopted a cat about 3 years ago, but she has left the cat in my and my mother’s care for three years. She has her own apartment, but she took in two dogs instead of this cat. She pays the medical bills, but we house, feed, and change his kitty litter. Does she have legal custody of him because she pays his bills, and at any time can she take him from us because of this?

Answer

There is no simple answer to your question. People who believe their animal is being wrongfully withheld can sue to try to get the animal returned. If litigated, the court will consider the evidence presented regarding this “shared” cat and determine who gets to keep him. A court could decide that the cat has been boarded and ownership has not been transferred since payments have been made for veterinary care. Alternatively (and perhaps even more likely) the court could decide that after three years the cat should be deemed gifted or abandoned. Worth noting is that in a few New York pet custody cases the courts have considered the interests of the animal, not solely property rights. For example, in the case of Raymond v. Lachmann, the court stated: “Cognizant of the cherished status accorded to pets in our society, the strong emotions engendered by disputes of this nature, and the limited ability of the courts to resolve them satisfactorily,.. we think it best for all concerned that, given his limited life expectancy, Lovey, who is now almost ten years old, remain where he has lived, prospered, loved and been loved for the past four years.” Clearly, the court considered the cat’s best interests and decided it was best to leave the cat where he had been living for four years. I hope that your family can work out a pet custody arrangement that considers the best interests of the cat.

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.

Send Your Pet Legal Question Now!

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.

Ask a Legal Question

By |2019-07-02T11:17:12+00:00July 2nd, 2019|