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Our dog's caretaker won't give her back to us

September 6th, 2005, 10:23 PM
Hi, my name is Natalia. I am sixteen years old and for my 15th birthday my dad bought me a Shih Tzu. That was a little over 2 years ago and a lot has happened since then. To make long things short, we moved into an apartment building which first told us they would allow us to have Gypsy (my Shih Tzu) in the apartment. A few days later the manager decided he wouldn't let us keep her and that we had to find someplace else for her. We had no idea for how long we would have to have someone take care of her so instead of paying for a care center we gave her to my father's friend and told him if he could take care of her until we were able to have her back in our apartment. We made it clear we still wanted her and that we only wanted someone to do us the favor of taking care of her indefinitely.

Just a few weeks ago, the manager told my mom that he would let us have our dog and that he wouldn't say anything. I am always thinking about Gypsy and miss her whenever I see a dog on the street or even on TV. Now we want her back because really she's ours. So, my dad called up his friend and told him we could have our dog back but he at first told us that his cousin was taking care of her and that he had gone to Mexico so he'd call us back in a week. A week passed and he never called so my father called him. He said that he had let an elderly lady with cancer keep her but that they wouldn't give her back. This is the most cold-hearted thing I've ever heard of. I miss Gypsy so much and now that we can actually have her in our apartment, I can't have her with me because the guy who we thought would take care of her gave her to someone else to take care of her and they won't give her back. This is my dilemma and the question I have is if anyone knows of anything I could do legally to get my dog back. Any type of advice or help would also be helpful and greatly appreciated.

September 6th, 2005, 10:27 PM
Wow, that's really sad! Did you make him sign a contract? Was the deal in writing? It's pretty hard to prove if it's not in writing... You'd have some receipts (if you kept them) but he would have more current vet bills (if any) to prove his side... I don't know! Maybe one of the people in rescue would have the answer...

On a brighter note:
I am sixteen years old and for my 15th birthday my dad bought me a Shih Tzu. That was a little over 2 years ago and a lot has happened since then. I thought fifteen was a crappy age to be, but if you were 15 for 2 years, I really feel for you!! :D :o

September 6th, 2005, 10:49 PM
No, unfortunately, we didn't think we would need a contract. I mean we thought he wouldn't do such a thing because he himself is a dog owner, he has like 2 or 3 Pomeranians. How would he like it if someone took one of them and never gave it back to him! I do still have the receipt of where I bought her from as well as the rabies shot receipt and certificate that was from early this year (around March) as well as the vaccine records.

On a brighter note:
I thought fifteen was a crappy age to be, but if you were 15 for 2 years, I really feel for you!! :D :o

I didn't think anyone would notice the oddness of me saying I got her 2 years ago for my 15th birthday and I'm sixteen. Let me clarify, I got her on September 14, 2003 (a few days before my 15th birthday on Oct. 3) and now it's September 6 and I'll be 17 in a month.

September 7th, 2005, 02:42 AM
just a q- how long has the dog been in care for?? are we talking a couple of weeks or are we talking months ???


September 7th, 2005, 05:13 AM
I think Melanie has a valid point. To get your dog back, your family will likely have to go to court - unless you can reach an agreement with the people who have her. And time is a considerable variable in determining who is the rightful owner. I did not check to see where you live but there are variations depending on the country, province, state and almost equally importantly - in the case of animals - county and municipal laws.

There was recently a debate in legal circles about pets as property. Under some laws, they are indeed property but some jurisdictions now refer to pets as "companions" or in Colorado, "guardians" Unfortunately, the Col. law - tho it sounds progressive - really means that the "owner" of the pet can still treat the pet as propety: sell, buy, kill even - but some argue that at least it changes attitudes.

Before I go on some offtrack discussion, what this means for you is that you will have to prove in court who actually owns the dog. If this individual entered into an agreement with your family to care for the dog, that is a verbal contractural agreement and since he gave the dog (ie the property) to someone else, he could be considered to be in breach of that assumed contract. The woman, however, may appeal, in the sense that she did not know the dog did not really belong to him. Then, you might point out she has stolen property. I asked some of the lawyers in my family and I hope their responses (and my interpretation of them) are not to confusing.

For a contract to be valid, it must meet several criteria:
- Mutual agreement (and it can be oral unless it exceeds a certain amount and then it must be written to be valid. (Different places have different amts I understand)
- Consideration - every party is conferring a benefit on the other party
- Competent, Adult - the parties must be of legal age
- Proper Subject Matter - The contract must have a lawful purpose (ie - it cannot refer to an illegal act like hiring someone to steal, etc.)
- Mutual Right to Remedy - There must be a way to adjudicate or address probs.
- Mutual Obligation to Perform Both partners must agree to carry out their side.

It would seem by your situation that you can rightfully reclaim your dog. The problem is the time. If this woman had been caring for the dog for 2 months or so, that is one thing but if it is two yrs or so, that would be regarded as quite another. It really depends on what the bylaws and other laws where you live state. A Judge might infer that the dog was abanndoned - if there is no written agreement or no witnesses and she has neighbours and objective people who can testify she has had this pet for awhile - then s/he (the Judge) might conclude she is the defacto owner.

Recently, a case came before the court in Nova Scotia. A family had surrendered their cat to the SPCA - tho in this case, they signed documents gassigning responsibility for the cat to the SPCA. In the interim, they decided they wanted the cat back. When they went to the SPCA, the cat had been adopted by another family. The Judge ruled the law was on the side if the SPCA and the other family was not obligated to return the cat even though it was an emotionally charged situation and the children wanted their pet back. The cat remained with the new family.

In another SPCA case, a cat was picked up roaming the community. The cat was deemed unadoptable by the SPCA (often the fate of strays, sighhh!) and eutheized. In fact, the cat belonged to a family who had gone on vacation and had left the kitty with someone who promised to care for him/her. The family sued the SPCA but lost because there were no records indicating thiswas the case and even if such existed, it was the responisbility of the family and the caretakers to ensure the pet was well cared for.

These cases all involved relatively short periods of time. If this woman has had the dog for a long time (over a year), a Judge might well say she is the presumed owner. It depnds what records you have - and proof of owership (ie when you purchased the dog from a breeder, her vet records indicating you cared for her, testimony of neighbours and so forth).

I hope I have not made this overly complicated and I am sorry if I have!! It seems to me this fellow is in breach of contract - especially where he gave the dog away but he could always argue he was unable to care for her and found someone who could.

The law should be what is best for the dog but since dogs are considered property, they are often treated that way legally. If this woman has proof she owns the dog - and has cared for it for a considerabe period of time, you may encounter more difficulty having her returned.

That said, my own sister ended up in a custody dispute during a divorce over she and her ex husband's 5 cats. She ended up with 3 (one because she herself had purchased the Blue Russian herself from a recognized breeder and two because two Siamese were brouight into the marriage by her and descended from cats my family had and she had brought them into the marriage) and her husband was given two because they had purchased the two together but his name was on the bill of sale at the breeders.

I wish you luck but I hope you can wotrk it out with this fellow before you go to court. If the woman is quite attached to the dog and has had her for a considerable period of time, you may have more of a problem. Others who have more info on pet law might have other and better perspectives and advice.

September 7th, 2005, 07:00 AM
Was it stated that your family was going to take the dog back when able. Had it been discussed where the dog was going to stay. How long has he had the dog in his possession. Has your family continued to supply the needs of the dog, food, treats, etc(vaccinations wouldn't be due til next march). Have you visited the dog while he has been staying with this man.
It seems a bit strange that the dog switches homes every time your father calls.

You could have your father call as a scare tactic, who knows whether it would work or not because it is most likely a civil matter. Anyway he could say that he is going to involve authorities if the dog is not returned immediately. Your father may want to record the call.

Me and Kayla
September 7th, 2005, 08:23 AM
I recently went through something similar to this situation. My daughter and her b/f got Kayla from the HS. The b/f signed the papers. This was in Nov. 2004. The 3 of them moved in with me in Dec. In March they left for Alberta and left Kayla behind. They wanted to get settled then have her shipped out there. They left me with an ill-trained and unsocialized Pitbull. The minute they left I started working with her to correct all the problems the kids had left her with. By June, they still hadn't gotten themselves settled and they were also in the process of breaking up. The b/f said he wanted the dog back, even though he was ill prepared to take care of her. I tried to fight it. I went to the HS who felt that I should be considered the rightful owner after 6 months of care and a ton of vets bills to prove that I was paying for everything from the time they moved in. However, they didn't want to commit to that without doing some investigation. Here was the response.....

1. The dog was signed for and microchipped under the b/f's name (even though the address he used was mine), and that he STILL had rightful ownership of the dog.
2. Legally I would have to return the dog, but the owners would have to reimburse me for all of my out of pocket expenses (including boarding fees @ $25.00/day since they left).
3. I could take it to court to try to gain custody, but that would be very time consuming and costly.

The outcome.......
The b/f couldn't come up with the $1,780.00 that I had spent on the dog since she moved in. Eventually, he also realized that she was in much better hands and much happier here with me, so he signed over custody to me.

Not sure if this helps you or not, but I suspect that if you were prepared to pay for the out of pocket expenses that the friend and the old lady had spent caring for your dog, and you have the papers for him/her, then you could go to the police and talk to them about getting the dog back. Legally, I believe that she is still yours.

Me and Kayla

September 7th, 2005, 07:58 PM
I saw a case like this on Judge Judy. Because the first owner did not keep track of where the dog was, visit it or pay for food or vet care they didn't have a leg to stand on and Judge Judy ruled that the new owner could keep the dog.
I guess it depends on the state you live in.

September 7th, 2005, 09:32 PM
Gypsy has was taken in by the caretaker about 5 months ago and I'm not sure how long the supposed old lady with cancer has had her. My dad says that when he went to his friend asking him the favor of taking care of Gypsy, that he told my dad that we didn't need to supply food for Gypsy since he had tons of dog food because he has 2 or 3 Pomeranians of his own.
Another thing, in the 5 months that Gypsy was under the caretaker's care, we did not visit her. Why you may ask. Because of me. I knew that if I saw her living with someone else and not with me I'd break down. My parents asked me a few times if I wanted to go see my dog but I refused, as much as I missed her (and still do) I knew that after having seen her I would be depressed. It seems like we will have to take the case to court. I will keep you updated thank you all I really appreciate it.

PS I have all kinds of stuff to prove Gypsy's ours: receipt from where we got her, vaccine records (last update around March this year), rabies shot receipt and certificate (taken March this year), pictures of when she was still a puppy and as an adult.

September 7th, 2005, 10:30 PM
Just to add to the advice you've already received, try to get a letter from the manager of your building stating that he had said yes,then asked you to get rid of it, and is now willing to allow the dog permanently. That way you can prove that you were not negligent to begin with and that you will now be able to keep the dog permanently.
Also obviously if there were any witnesses at all to your dad's conversations with him bring them.

September 8th, 2005, 12:17 PM
I would do as cutiepie advised and get permission letter in writing from Landlord - and letter should state that permission cannot be rescinded without good reason. BUT, then I would try to visit Gypsy in her current home and perhaps let Gypsy have her say in the matter. I understand that you love Gypsy but it is very possible that she has become very important to this poor lady suffering from cancer and Gypsy may in fact have become equally attached to her. She will recognize you and love you, but some dogs are just one person pups and I think you will have to consider this, as hard as it will be.

September 8th, 2005, 03:48 PM
SnowDancer, you took the words out of my mouth - or my keyboard. I worry about the woman with cancer as well. Some ppl are greatly helped by having someoone or something to live for and this pet may be helping this woman this way. I shudder to think what losing the dog may do to her. Is there any way of knowing what her diagnosis is and how this may mpact on her. Assessing the situation first. I know you love your dog and what the caretaker did was wrong but this poor woman seems to be an innocent victim here. Have you spoken to her? She may even - given the circumstances - be willng to return the pet and maybe you cah make the situation better by helping her to find another. I can tell you thst is what I would do in that situation - assess her situation first!

September 8th, 2005, 04:09 PM
wow that's terrible and i feel for you. when i was living with my sister and had had my dog for about a month and a half, my sister and i got into a fight and out of spite she took him right out of the backyard where he was playing and drove off with him. luckily i got him back a couple days later but two years later and i still get angry at her when i remember that. this is really terrible and i'm so sorry you're being put through this. the only thing i can think of is any proof of purchase you have for the dog that has your name or your family name on it. if you can prove the dog is yours they can't keep it. is this guy in on it? why isn't he taking you to where your dog is so you can just pick up the dog and walk out. if there's a way for you to get there, then forget pleasantries and snatch him back. have you tried calling the police? if your dad has a receipt then that might solve things. it's worth a try! best of luck, i really hope you get your dog back.