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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Can anyone help with pet ownership disputes with neighbour? Summary:

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Can anyone help with pet ownership disputes with neighbour?
- Neighbour got a cat
- cat got very ill and neglected by neighbour (not fed or treated properly)
- I took care of the cat and brought her to the vet
- Car is chipped under my name
- Cat got better and lived with me for a year plus now
- Neighbour never asked about the cat, even though they could see the cat in my garden
- A few weeks ago cat disappeared
- When I asked the neighbour about the cat's whereabouts, the neighbour said the cat was taken away to another place by them
- I've tried for 2 weeks now to speak to the neighbour, but the neighbour is refusing to talk and never claimed ownership of cat
- The neighbour won't reveal what happened to the cat
My questions:
- Since I cared for an unwanted cat, would I be classed as a legal owner
- What options are there legally to find out what happened to the cat
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
Is this a pedigree cat of high value or a moggy?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Jo,No, it's a normal cat - a tortoise shell cat - like this one's not high value. The neighbour only got the cat for catching mice, but where overwhelmed by it later, since it got pregant twice and had many kittens. They had no experience with cats and didn't neuter her. I took her to the vet and got her vaccinated and neutered.The way they treated could be classed as neglect - which is an offence I believe. But instead of reporting them to the RSPCA I offered my help and took the cat to the vet. I also helped them rehome some of the kittens.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I also adopted one of the kittens and since I cared for the neglected cat (her name is Storm), she basically chose to live with me. The kitten (her daughter) and Storm became inseparable friends over the past year (see photo attached).I sent 3 letters to the neighbour as trying to talk to them didn't work. The letters explained the situation and also asked them to return Storm to her home.No response at all from them.My assumption: The neighbour are a big family. The mother of the family dealt with the cat matter and I got a verbal ok from the mother last year to take care of the cat after I explained that she is very sick.The mother of the family left the husband a few months ago and the husband probably didn't know that the cat was living with me.Since the cat (Storm) still visited their garden or house from time to time when I was out, I'm assuming the father didn't like this and got rid of her finally (i.e. 'taken to another place').That's why he is unwilling to co-operate, as he probably didn't realise Storm was living with me all the time and now feels guilty.I hope this is making some sense, I appreciate it's not a normal case.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The picture I attached previously was also included in one of the letters that I sent to the neighbour, to try to appeal to their good side.
How long did you have this cat?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Like I said, the cat was living with me since lsat year around Oct / Nov time. She slept every day in my house and I fed her daily and brought her to the vet regularly.The neighbour never asked about her whereabouts once in all that time, eventhough they knew she was coming over to mine. I think they were happy, since they didn't have another mouth to feed (it's a big family and not very affluent)
Are you prepared to sue?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Since all my friendly attempts to find out what happened to Storm, yes I'm prepared to take this to the court. But I wanted to get a professional opinion first, where I legally stand in terms of ownership, i.e. would a judge decide in my favour - would the judge take into account the well-being of the cat, the fact that she was neglected and almost died (if I hadn't taken her to the vet) and the fact that she was living with me for a year and that the neighbour never asked about her, i.e. they technically abandoned her.And after that, what options do I have to find out where they have taken her, i.e. get the father to speak, so I can get the cat back.
It is never quite that simple. Animals are property in law and no more. However much they mean to us they have no other legal standing.
This cat was clearly owned by her originally. The question is whether or not there has been abandonment. In fairness, you have had the cat for some time, paid for treatment and delivered care and the micro chip is in your favour.
The court will not consider the welfare of the cat. That is not the issue.
I think overall though you have nothing to lose except money in applying. It is easy enough to make an application for a declaration of ownership and a consequent possession order. You do have a reasonable chance on these facts.
I would write to her first though setting down that you wish the cat to be returned to you within 14 days or you will sue and seek costs and interest. Might work, might not but it will protect you from costs.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thanks, ***** ***** would like to understand what is involved in making an application for a declaration of ownership. Is this something you could help with?Also, if I have to take this to the court, how much could this roughly cost - not looking for exact figures, just trying to get an idea.
It isn't a huge amount to issue. Usually about £200. There is a further fee of roughly £150 for the cost of a contested hearing.
The risk is that the other side will use a solicitor and then you will face costs if you lose. That could run into thousands. Usually people don't though.
Issuing is fairly easy. The Court will send you a form but you can always use the generic N245 form. I always use the generic forms.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok thanks. I'm still not 100% clear about some points:- When I apply for the declaration of ownership and if the neighbour doesn't respond, will this mean that I will be the legal owner?
- Do I have to use a solicitor for the application and if so, could I hire you?
- When does the contested hearing come into play, when the neighbour does respond? Or does this happen regardless?
- Say the application is successful and I'm the legal owner, the next step would be the possession order I presume. What happens if the neighbour doesn't respond to this order? How could this be enforced, i.e. getting the neighbour to reveal what happened to the cat and return her.
- What is the cost for a possession order?
- You also mentioned that the risk is the other side will use a solicitor and the cost could run into thousands, but people usually don't. What is the reason that people don't? I'm assuming it's only cost related?
- Assuming it will get more complicated and I need to hire a solicitor, could I hire you?I appreciate it's late now, so please feel free to get back to me tomorrow on the points above.And thanks for your help tonight - it has given me a glimmer of hope to find out what happened to Storm.
1 No. It means it will be set down for a hearing to consider that.
2 No, not necessarily. You can do it unrepresented. It wouldn't be cheaper.
3 That would happen unless the neighbour responds admitting
*****would make an injunction and if she doesn't comply she would be in contempt.
5 It isn't a huge amount to issue. Usually about £200. There is a further fee of roughly £150 for the cost of a contested hearing.
6 Cost really
7 I'm not allowed to accept instructions directly under the rules of this site.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok thanks for clarifying. I would like some more detailed information about the process, so to confirm my next steps and assumption:1 Speak to the neighbour one final time and if that fails send the father a letter saying that if the cat isn't returned in x days that I will have to sue for cost and interest.2 Assuming the above fails, hire a solicitor so an application for a declaration of ownership can be made (~£200)3 Once the application has been reviewed by the court a contested hearing will be arranged (~£150). I'm assuming a letter will be sent to the neighbour to give him an opportunity to respond?4 Assuming the neighbour doesn't contest or respond, I will be the legal owner of the cat and a possession order will be made by the court, instructing the neighbour to return the cat?Just trying to understand the actual process, so if this is explained somewhere else already via a flow diagram etc please feel free to point me to those resources.Thanks
1 Yes.
2 If you use a solicitor the costs will rack up substantially
3 Yes.
4 Yes.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Slightly confused regarding point 2. You mentioned yesterday that I can do it unrepresented, but that it wouldn't necessarily be cheaper, I took this as 'you might as well hire a solicitor'. Are you now saying that if I do hire a solicitor that the cost will be £200 for the application, £150 for the contested hearing and plus the solicitor's hourly fee (2-3 hours of work)? Or what do you mean with 'rack up substantially'?Also, how much time does the court usually give the neighbour to respond? And if he doesn't respond at all is this seen by the court as non contesting?
That probably should have read WOULD BE. A solicitor would very definitely be more expensive as they are entitled to be paid.
It is nothing even remotely like 2-3 hours work. If you use a solicitor it will cost several thousand.
Usually 28 days.
I'm happy to continue with this but please rate my answer.
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I've rated you, so I'm assuming you will be paid now. I thought rating you would automatically end this conversation.Apologies if it offended you, of course solicitors need to get paid.I thought the total cost would be around £350+ if a solicitor fills out the application. I was surprised that the cost was so low, but now I realise it's only the fee required by the court. But 28 days - wow - so that's potentially 8hrs x £100 - 200 hourly rate x 28 days = ~ £22k - £44k to be declared a legal owner (no guarantees) of a property (inc. pets), is this correct?So I'm guessing I should do the application myself and if I have any problems regarding the form or if I need further advice to come back to this site and get help?
Oh no, its fine.
I don't think you really need a solicitor. This is a simple enough application.
28 days for the defendant to respond.
But write to her first. It is quite unlikely it would come to a contested action.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok thanks for clarifying.I will write to the father first (the mother left him). Assuming this fails, where do I get this n245 form from, I'm assuming I have to go to the local court, or do I download it online?And if I have questions further down the line, can I contact you again. I'm happy to open a new question for this.
You can download it online.
If you contact the court they probably have a specific form but I never see the point. I always use the generic forms. The worst that will happen is that they will tell me to fill out another.
that should be the N244 forms. the general form.
Yes, you can come back when you like.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok thanks. I was searching for n245, but couldn't find it online, hence my question.Anyway, will have a look at it tomorrow and come back if I have more questions.Thanks for your help, much appreciated.
There is an N245 form but it is for variations.
The N244 form is the general one.