A woman in recovery asked asked me to care for her dog for 3 months. She said the dog had all its shots and promised to pay for it's care. It turns out that the dog was 2 years behind on shots so I paid over $500 to update the shots. I've had the dog for 10 months and the owner hasn't paid for the care, as originally promised. She recently asked me to keep the dog indefinitely while she continues to recover. I told her I want to adopt the dog but she refuses to give up claim to it stating that she will pay me the dogs care when she can (at this point, owes me $1,500). She is planning to take the dog and hand it to another person to provide foster care for indeterminate time. I want to adopt the dog. Ripping her out of home that she's been in for 10 months to another stranger is not in the dog's best interest. Do I have to legal right to keep this dog?
As the expression goes, “possession is nine-tenths of the law” meaning that the person in possession is typically in a more desirable position at least to the extent that the burden is on the other party to commence the lawsuit or take other action to try to regain possession of the animal. If litigated, a court will review the evidence to determine “ownership” rights. A court could find based on the evidence that after such a long time the dog was abandoned or given away (or not boarded in the first place). Some courts have also considered the animal’s best interests in determining custody. Alternatively, a court could decide that there was a boarding agreement and ownership was never transferred (in which event, the person providing the boarding may have a monetary claim for the animal’s care). A person who believes that his/her animal is being wrongfully withheld may also contact the police. The police usually don’t get involved in pet custody disputes but they will sometimes intervene if they believe that an animal was stolen. It is good to have veterinary records and other indicia of “ownership” on hand in case of a lawsuit or police investigation. Good luck!
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