We found a dog online and the family was offering her as “free to a good home.” We went and met her and agreed she was a good fit. Recently, someone reached out to us and stated that the dog was supposed to be returned to the shelter if they family was going to get rid of her. The shelter is out of state and claims the owner had signed a contract. Am I at risk for losing my dog? Are they able to take her back? I’m worried they are going to try and make me re-adopt this dog or tell us we have to give her back.
It is common for pet adoption agreements to contain a provision requiring adopters to either return adopted animals to the shelter or rescue if the adopter no longer wants the animal or requiring adopters to get the consent of the shelter or rescue prior to rehoming the animal. The purpose of these provisions is to protect the animals. Shelters and rescues have different policies regarding enforcement of these provisions (some requesting return of the animal, others simply asking the new adopter to complete a form with contact information, and still others asking the new adopter to complete an adoption application---which may be subject to approval/disapproval). Shelters/rescues that want an animal returned under these circumstances typically need to commence a lawsuit but lawsuits are not often commenced for the return of an animal in these situations unless the shelter/rescue has reason to believe the animal is being mistreated. Also, there is the issue of whether the new adopter is bound by the terms of an adoption contract that he/she did not sign.
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