At the beginning of the pandemic, a jobless, homeless (couch surfing) friend asked us to look after his dog. We happily did it because the dog was suffering from neglect and loneliness. The owner made it clear he just needed this until he got back on his feet. We expected it to only be for a few months, but the pandemic carried on. In the meantime, we medically cared for the sweet little pup, as he came to us with an abscess and unvaccinated. And of course we fell in love with the little guy. At the 6 month mark, the friend disappeared entirely (changed his number and email and left no contact info), so by the 1 year mark we assumed the dog was ours. Now it has been 15 months and the owner is back and demanding his dog. We didn't say no, but asked him if he was working and had a permanent home and to consider the well-being of the dog who has a pack of two other dogs to play with, and a large back yard, and 2 work from home parents who love and dote on him. To which the friend threatened us with the police. I know animals are considered property in Texas, but do we have any rights at this point?
As the expression goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” People who believe that their animal is being wrongfully withheld can sue to try to get the animal returned (although many more people threaten to sue than sue) and can contact the police (although the police tend not to get involved in pet custody disputes). An argument can be made that an animal should be deemed gifted or abandoned after all of this time, particularly when an animal’s “parent” failed to keep in contact for months. In the meantime, in the event the police inquire or a lawsuit is commenced, it can be helpful to have on hand veterinary and other ownership records in one’s name and evidence of neglect by the person claiming the dog. I hope this all works out well for this dog.
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