My niece left her dog with me while she was ill and wants her dog back after I cared for it for a year

////My niece left her dog with me while she was ill and wants her dog back after I cared for it for a year


My niece was ill last year in March 2017 and she asked if I would take care of her dog until she was well and I said yes. She came and picked up the dog from my house in April 2017. The very next day she brought the dog back and said I just cant handle this dog and left it at my house. Now after a year of caring for the dog, and trips to the vet and groomer, she wants the dog back. I am attached now and I feel like she abandoned the dog the day she brought her back to me. During this time she never has stooped by to visit the dog. Now I get served with court papers stating my niece wants the dog back. I live in Ohio and she lives in Michigan, how will this go? Will I get to keep the dog?


I suggest that if you cannot work out an amicable custody arrangement with your niece, you have attorney representation. If an animal is gifted, the person receiving the animal as a gift typically “owns” the animal and the person who gave his/her animal away typically has no further rights to the animal. Sometimes, however, the dispute also centers around whether an animal was given away or merely boarded. The rights of individuals in an animal boarding situation are not always clear unless there is a written boarding agreement or the parties involved agree on the terms of the verbal agreement (but when a dispute arises, the parties generally don’t agree). Rights are sometimes also clarified by animal abandonment laws. There is a mechanism in Ohio law (and in several other states) for an animal left for boarding to be deemed abandoned. However, Ohio’s law is applicable to animals left with veterinarians or registered kennel so may only provide guidance when animals are boarded with individuals. The law states, in part:

"Upon the failure of any person to reclaim an animal left in the care of a licensed veterinarian or registered kennel owner, the veterinarian or kennel owner, at the end of a ten-day period starting with the day he gives notice as required under this section, shall be considered the legal owner of the animal and may send it to an animal shelter or pound. The veterinarian or kennel owner shall give written notice, either personally to the person who had left the animal, or sent by certified mail to his last known address. The notice shall specify the amount that shall be due for the care and treatment of the animal, the date on which the veterinarian or kennel owner will be considered to be the owner, and the location of the animal shelter or pound to which it will be sent for disposal. The person who had left the animal may redeem it prior to the expiration of the ten-day period by paying to the veterinarian or kennel owner the amount set forth in the notice for the care and treatment of the animal."

Ohio's lien law also provides, in part: "Any person who feeds or boards an animal under contract with the owner shall have a lien on such animal to secure payment for food and board furnished."

If litigated (and apparently your situation has resulted in litigation), courts will consider the boarding agreement, if any, applicable laws, and the other evidence to determine rights. Depending on the evidence, a court could determine that an animal was abandoned, gifted, or just boarded (in which case, the court might consider if payment was made). In a few pet custody cases, courts have also considered the best interests of the animals.

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By |2018-05-21T16:50:44-04:00April 13th, 2018|