Lost Pet: Related Cases
|Allendorf v. Redfearn||2011 IL App (2d) 110130 (2011)||
After a farm employee was injured in an all terrain vehicle (ATV) while trying to round up a bull, he sued the farm owners under the Domestic Animals Running at Large Act. The Appellate Court held that the employee could not recover under the Act, which protects members of the general public who cannot be expected to appreciate the risk posed by an animal. Because the employee was not an innocent bystander but rather was attempting to exercise control over the bull at the time he was injured, he fell within the Act's definition of an “owner” of the bull.
|Alvarez v. Clasen||946 So.2d 181 (La.,2006)||
Plaintiff sued neighbors who trapped cat outside and brought it to an animal shelter where it was euthanized. This court held that private parties trapping a stray cat were not liable for conversion because local ordinances permitted animal shelters to hold stray cats.
|Arguello v. Behmke||2006 WL 205097 (N.J.Super.Ch.,2006) (not reported in A.2d)||
The adoption of a dog was invalidated and the court ordered its return to the original owner. The shelter's placement of the dog with a new family was invalid because the shelter agreed that it would hold the dog for a certain period of time.
|Birmingham Humane Society v. Dickson||661 So.2d 759 (Ala.,1994)||
The owner of a lost dog found the dog in an animal shelter and asked for its return. The shelter gave it back but sterilized it first despite the owner's wishes that it not be sterilized. The court held the shelter owed a duty to give the dog back without sterilizing it and affirmed a finding of negligence.
|Conti v. ASPCA||353 N.Y.S.2d 288 (N.Y.,1974)||
A parrot flew away from its original owner, was found and adopted by the plaintiff, and subsequently seized by the ASPCA for return to the original owner. The finder-plaintiff brought an action of replevin to recover possession of the parrot. The court found that the bird found was the same as the one lost and it did not extinguish the original owner's right to possession by reverting to a wild state.
|Feger v. Warwick Animal Shelter||29 A.D.3d 515 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., 2006)||In this New York case, a cat owner brought suit against an animal shelter and its employee for their alleged misconduct in knowingly placing a champion cat stolen from her home for adoption by unidentified family. In ruling that the lower court properly denied the plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment, the appellate court found that there are questions of fact, inter alia , as to whether “Lucy” is “Kisses." However, the Shelter defendants are correct that the plaintiff may not recover damages for the emotional harm she allegedly suffered from the loss of her cat.|
|Finn v. Anderson||64 Misc. 3d 273, 101 N.Y.S.3d 825 (N.Y. City Ct. 2019)||This replevin action concerns ownership of an "indoor/outdoor" cat named "Sylvester" or "Marshmallow," depending on perspective. In September 2018, plaintiffs found an unidentified, thin, white cat hanging around their house looking for food. After several months of feeding the cat, in January 2019, plaintiffs decided to bring the cat inside and take it to a vet, where he was de-wormed, vaccinated, treated for fleas, microchipped, and dubbed "Sylvester." A few weeks later, Sylvester accidentally got out of plaintiff's house where plaintiff found out from a neighbor that the cat was taken back by the Defendant, who claimed that Sylvester is actually "Marshmallow" and had been plaintiff's indoor/outdoor cat since 2009. Plaintiff then filed a replevin action against defendant to recover legal possession of Sylvester, aka Marshmallow. The City Court, New York, Jamestown, Chautauqua County first noted that, regardless of how people feel about their dogs and cats, New York law treats them as personal property and even "chattel." While the court observed that the trend has been the "de-chattelization" of household pets in New York, it has not gone so far as to adopt a "best interests" standard to replace the superior possessory rights standard. The court noted that there is inherent difficulty in applying a best interests standard with pets because there is no practical way of gauging a pet's feelings and assessing its interests. The court further stated that New York Courts have developed a “quasi-interests based standard” for pets that considers highly subjective factors. Significantly, the court declared the following: "[w]hile it appears the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, has not addressed the issue, this Court concludes that it is time to declare that a pet should no longer be considered “personal property” like a table or car." Thus, using a "best for all concerned" articulated in Raymond v. Lachmann in 1999, this court weighed the factors whether to place Sylvester/Marshmallow with plaintiff or defendant based on the care provided by both parties. The court found, in a very close decision, that the “best interests of all concerned” test leaves the custody of the cat, Sylvester/Marshmallow, with the defendant. While the court was convinced that plaintiffs were genuinely concerned for Sylvester's/Marshmallow's welfare and spent time and money on his care, it appears that Sylvester/Marshmallow may have “voted with his feet” to return to his home of ten years with the defendant and her children. The Court found in favor of the defendant, and plaintiff's claim was dismissed.|
|Free v. Jordan||10 S.W.2d 19 (Ark. 1928)||
In a replevin action to recover possession of a lost dog from its finder, the court reversed and remanded the case so a jury could determine whether the statute of limitations was tolled due to the defendant's alleged fraudulent concealment of his possession of the dog.
|Graham v. Notti||196 P.3d 1070 (Wash.,2008)||
The court held that the adoption of a dog from an animal shelter was invalid unless the dog was found in "the city" pursuant to the shelter's contract with the local government.
|Lamare v. North Country Animal League||743 A.2d 598 (Vt. 1999)||
Owners of a licensed dog that escaped while not wearing its tags filed an action against a local animal shelter that ultimately released the dog to others for adoption. The court held that the town's actions fully complied with its animal control ordinance and that its ordinance provided ample notice to plaintiffs consistent with state law and due process requirements.
|Lincecum v. Smith||287 So.2d 625 (1973)||
Despite "Good Samaritan" intent, the defendant was liable for conversion where he authorized a sick puppy's euthanasia without first making reasonable efforts to locate its owner. The court also awarded $50 for the puppy's replacement value and $100 for mental anguish and humiliation.
|Lira v. Greater Houston German Shepherd Dog Rescue, Inc.||488 S.W.3d 300 (Tex. Apr. 1, 2016)||
In this case, plaintiff’s family dog, a German Shepherd named Monte, ran away and was rescued by Greater Houston German Shepherd Dog Rescue (GHGSDR). The organization refused to return the dog to plaintiff, so plaintiff filed suit against GHGSDR. The court found that there is no common law that states that a dog owner loses property rights to its dog if it runs away and is found by someone else. The court also looked to whether or not there was a city ordinance that would determine the proper ownership of the dog. Ultimately, the court found that the city ordinance regarding stray dogs did not strip the plaintiff of ownership rights because the dog had run away. The court also held that if there were any doubts as to the meaning of the ordinance, it should always be read “against a forfeiture of property.” The Supreme Court of Texas reversed judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment reinstating the trial court's judgment that Monte belonged to the Liras and the court properly enjoined GHGSDR to return him to his owners.
|Mongelli v. Cabral||632 N.Y.S.2d 927 (City of Younkers Ct. 1995)||
A couple boarded their pet bird with a couple who groomed and boarded birds while the wife underwent extensive medical treatment. There was a dispute between the owners and the boarders over whether the bird was a gift or the subject of long-term boarding. The court found that the boarders had not established that the bird had been a gift.
|Morgan v. Kroupa||702 A.2d 630 (Vt. 1997)||Finder found Owner’s lost dog. Finder posted signs in order to locate Owner. More than a year later, the owner contacted Finder to take back the dog. However, Finder was permitted to keep the dog, since she had cared for the dog and made good efforts to locate the true owner.|
|Peloquin v. Calcasieu Parish Police Jury||367 So.2d 1246 (La.,1979)||
The finders of a stray cat were able to maintain a conversion suit against their neighbors who trapped the cat and brought it to a shelter where it was euthanized.
|Placey v. Placey||51 So.3d 374 (Ala. Civ. App., 2010)||
The appellate court held that the Protection from Abuse Act authorized the trial court to determine and award ownership of Preston the dog in a domestic violence dispute between a mother and daughter. It then awarded ownership rights to the mother because took better care of the Preston and it was in his best interest.
|Raymond v. Bujold||199 A. 91 (N.H.,1938)||
A finder of a lost dog did not become the "keeper" of the dog when he tied it up and summoned the owner to retrieve it. The finder was therefore entitled to sue the owner for damage caused by the dog.
|SAM LAMBERT & ANDRIA LAMBERT v. SALLY MORRIS & STEVE HAIR||--- S.E.2d ----, 2018 WL 6314142 (N.C. Ct. App. Dec. 4, 2018)||Plaintiffs Sam Lambert and Andria Lambert appeal the trial court's granting of summary judgment in this lost dog case. Specifically, plaintiffs filed an action against defendants Sally Morris and Steve Hair alleging conversion, civil conspiracy, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, as well as injunctive relief and damages related to the disappearance of their dog, Biscuit. Biscuit went missing in August of 2015. After searching for Biscuit for several days, plaintiffs contacted the local animal control and posted Biscuit as a lost dog on animal control's unofficial Facebook page. Over a month later, a citizen brought Biscuit (who had no microchip or collar on) to animal control where she was placed in a holding cell. After the 72-hour hold, Biscuit was transferred to the Humane Society. Biscuit was spayed and examined by a veterinarian, and a picture was posted on the Humane Society website. At the vet exam, tumors were discovered in Biscuit's mammary glands and so surgery was performed, some of it paid for by defendant Hair. Hair eventually adopted Biscuit. Almost a year later, plaintiffs found an old picture of Biscuit on the Humane Society Facebook page and attempted to claim Biscuit. Defendant Hair learned of this and requested that plaintiffs reimburse for veterinary expenses, to which they agreed. After some discussion, Hair learned plaintiffs had over 14 dogs and refused to return Biscuit without a home inspection. That caused a heated discussion and the meeting between plaintiffs and defendant ended without the dog returning. About a month later, plaintiffs filed suit against defendants, whereupon defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On appeal here, the court first noted that, per state law, an animal shelter hold a lost or abandoned dog for at least 72-hours. Here, animal control satisfied its legal duty by keeping Biscuit in custody for the required holding period before transferring her to the Humane Society. Thus, plaintiffs lost any ownership rights to Biscuit after the 72-hour mark. Moreover, almost a month had passed between the time Biscuit was taken in by animal control and the formal adoption by defendant Hair at the Humane Society. As a result, the court found that Hair was the rightful owner of Biscuit and was entitled to negotiate with plaintiffs as he saw fit. Thus, no genuine issues of material fact existed for plaintiffs at trial. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in granting summary judgment to defendants and dismissing plaintiffs’ claims.|
|Sexton v. Brown||Not Reported in P.3d, 147 Wash.App. 1005, 2008 WL 4616705 (Wash.App. Div. 1)||
In this Washington case, Valeri Sexton and Corey Recla sued Kenny Brown, DVM, for damages arising from the death of their dog. Plaintiffs alleged a number of causes of action including negligence, breach of bailment, conversion, and trespass to chattels. The incident occurred after plaintiff's dog ran away while plaintiff was camping Marblemount area. Another party found the Yorkshire terrier and took it to defendant-veterinarian's office, the Pet Emergency Center (PEC). After being examined first by a one veterinarian, defendant-veterinarian Brown took over care and determined that the dog suffered from a life threatening condition; he then told the finders that if they did not want to pay for further care, they could have the dog euthanized. This court affirmed the trial court's decision that the medical malpractice act does not apply to veterinarians. It also affirmed the dismissal of Sexton's breach of bailment claim, finding that Brown was not a finder under relevant Washington law. The court did find that there were material issues of fact about the measure of damages, and reversed the decision to limit damages to the fair market or replacement value of the dog. Further, the court found genuine issues of material fact about whether Brown's actions were justified when viewed under the requirements of Washington's veterinary practice laws.
|State v. Weekly||65 N.E.2d 856 (1946)||
The court affirmed a conviction for stealing a dog by holding that it was a "thing of value" despite the traditional common law rule to the contrary and even though it was not taxable property.
|Stray from Heart, Inc. v. Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of City of New York||20 N.Y.3d 946 (N.Y., 2012)||
Petitioner, an animal rescue organization, filed suit seeking the enforcement of the Animal Shelters and Sterilization Act. The court held that the act does not provide for a private right of action for money damages. Instead, the legislative history reveals the law was designed to benefit the general public in New York City as well as stray cats and dogs. The court affirmed the lower court's decision with costs.
|Terral v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co.||892 So.2d 732 (La.,2005)||
A motorcyclist hit a dog wandering on the road and sued the defendant under strict liability theory. The court found that the defendant was strictly liable because he owned the dog in fact. Although the dog was originally a stray, the court upheld a finding of ownership because the defendant regularly fed the dog and harbored it on his property.
|Theis v. Yuba County Sheriff's Department||Slip Copy, 2019 WL 3006261 (E.D. Cal. July 10, 2019)||The Plaintiffs allege that their cat, named Pizza, was unlawfully euthanized at Yuba County Animal Care Services shelter in Olivehurst, California on or about February 9, 2018. Pizza went missing on or about February 9, 2018 and Plaintiffs found out later that same day that a neighbor had found the cat and brought it to the Yuba County animal shelter. The Plaintiffs attempted to contact the shelter, but it had already closed for the evening. The next morning around 9:30 a.m., the Plaintiffs arrived at the shelter and learned that Pizza had been euthanized as early as 5:00 p.m. the night before. Defendant Barnhill, the shelter’s supervising officer, informed the Plaintiff’s that Pizza had been injured, however, the neighbor who brought the cat to the shelter without knowing it was the Plaintiffs’ described Pizza as looking healthy. The Plaintiffs contend that Pizza’s euthanization falls within an ongoing pattern and practice of abuse and failure to follow state and federal law. Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on October 1, 2018. The Defendants removed the case to federal court. Plaintiff’s asserted four claims in their First Amended Complaint: (1) the failure to perform mandatory duties in violation of California Government Code section 815.6, (2) petition for a writ of mandate under California Code of Civil Procedure section 1085, (3) violation of the plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, (4) negligence under California common law. The Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint and alleged that the Plaintiff’s did not plead facts sufficient to show that Barnhill engaged in unlawful conduct or to establish a substantive or procedural due process violation. The Court, however, granted the Plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint as to the section 1983 claim. The Court declined to assert supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, which were the Plaintiff’s first, second, and fourth claims since the Plaintiff’s had conceded that their federal claim by requesting to amend their complaint. As a result, the Court reviewed remaining claims to determine whether they may be included in any amended complaint or whether leave to amend would be futile. The Court determined that granting Plaintiff’s leave to file a second amended complaint would not be futile on all of their claims except for the petition for writ of mandate claim. California’s Civil Procedure Code section 1085 does not apply to federal courts and, therefore, the Plaintiff’s leave to amend this claim would be futile. Ultimately, the Court ordered Plaintiff’s third cause of action for violations of their Fourteenth Amendment substantive and procedural due process rights be dismissed with leave to amend, the Plaintiff’s state law claims in their first, second, and fourth causes of action be dismissed with leave to amend to the extent consistent with the order, and denied the Defendant's motions to strike Plaintiffs' punitive damages claim. Plaintiffs were required to file a second amended complaint within 21 days of the date the order was filed if they wished to amend their complaint.|
|Webb v. Amtower||2008 WL 713728 (KS,2008 (not reported))||
The court applied the forum's traditional lex loci conflict-of-laws rule to determine what jurisdiction's law governed for both damages and recovery of possession. The "place of injury" for the tort/damages issue was Kansas since that's where the contract was signed. The court remanded the case to determine the law of the place where the dog was found to determine the right-to-possession since that was a personal property issue.
|Wheatley v. Towers||358 N.E.2d 971 (Ill.,1977)||
Plaintiff's dog was picked up by animal control for running-at-large. The plaintiff expressed his intent to reclaim the dog but before doing so the holding period expired and the dog was euthanized. The plaintiff sued the veterinarian for conversion. The court held that the euthanasia was not conversion because the impoundment ordinance gave the animal shelter a right to euthanize the dog after the holding period expired.
|Woods v. KittyKind, Inc.||2005 WL 1404712 (N.Y.Sup.,2005 (not reported))||
The court granted the plaintiff's motion for an animal shelter to disclose the identity of her lost cat's adopter because the plaintiff alleged that the shelter did not comply with the law and its transfer of ownership was therefore invalid.