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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71153
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I took in a young dog whilst her owner was in hospital in November

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I took in a young dog whilst her owner was in hospital in November 2014. The owner has never since lived at home fit enough to walk let alone exercise a dog. She had a stroke around Christmas time and is now in a permanent placement in a care home. She wants the dog back but, if the dog is not happy, she wants her to go to a grandson who has suddenly appeared and lives on a farm locally who will then take her to visit regularly. Over the past 17 months the owner has asked to see the dog twice and has never offered any money for her keep.
The dog has settled well into our country home where she has a companion dog with whom she's best mates. She has 2 walks a day and holidays on the coast. She is settled, happy and secure.Last time I took her to see the 'owner' I left her there for an hour. On my return I was told she was waiting by the door for me all the time I was gone. The 'owner' said she'd had her vaccinations. She hadn't. She has now.
I would obviously like to keep the dog as she's been with us for c a third of her life, is settled, happy and secure. The grandson has a small child. The dog loves children whilst in the open air. Within 4 walls children frighten her and she hides upstairs whilst they're around. She loves to eat rubbish and living on a farm there's always plenty of rubbish around which she would undoubtedly eat and then be ill.
Do I have to return the dog to people she no longer knows to an uncertain future or do I have a case to keep her?
Maggie Bonnell
How old is she?Is she a pedigree?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
She was 4 in January and is a scruffy white ***** ***** type terrier. Definitely not a pedigree.
Ok. Are you prepared to risk being sued?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Are you saying I have no claim to ownership? In which case can I bill the 'owner' for all costs involved in the care of the dog over the 17 month?
Does that mean you are not prepared to risk being sued?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Probably not. To my way of thinking you can't just leave a dog with someone for such a long period of time without offering any payment and then expect the dog carer to give her back without any by your leave. Much as I love the dog, if, legally, there's no case to answer then I can't see the point in setting myself up for an expensive fall. If something prejudicial then happens to the dog then that's a different matter!
The reality is that nobody can guarantee that you would not be sued. You do have a claim on the basis that this dog does appear to have been abandoned. However, she could try to seek a declaration of ownership and a consequent possession order. If she does then you would have to go to court to argue it. Whether she will not is difficult to say. This isn't a high value pedigree showjumping dog and so the monetary value is probably not worth suing over but dogs have a value to their owners that exceed the sum of money they are worth. People will litigate to recover their dogs when probably it is not cost-effective. That said, people who care that much for their dogs don't generally abandon them for 17 months. if this were to go to court though the issue is not who can provide a better home for the dog. However much our dogs mean to us they are property in law. The issue is who is the legal owner. Clearly she purchased the dog originally. Her conduct since would suggest that she has abandoned her. She may start saying that there was an arrangement that you would return her when she came out of hospital but then you could counterclaim for the cost of upkeep which will probably be substantial at this stage when you include vets bills. The other problem here though is micro-chipping. It is now a legal requirement for dogs to be micro-chipped. If she is micro-chipped then the company will not transfer her to you without the agreement of the original owner or an injunction. If she isn't micro-chipped then it's a simple matter of getting her micro-chipped. If she won't agree to the transfer then you could sue. It is actually not that expensive to do that and the same arguments would apply. Can I clarify anything for you? Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you. That's really helpful. The person pushing to return of the dog is a trainee social worker. Social services re-homed the cat without asking the owner on the basis that the Care Act states that where there are pets involved in a case the welfare of the pet has to be taken into consideration. If I hadn't taken the dog when I did she would have also been re-homd. Social services seem to be following 2 different sets of rules and that doesn't seem right somehow.
I wouldn't worry about social services. The only risk from social services is that they appear to just randomly turn up and take people's children away. Otherwise they have no power at all and regularly talk nonsense.Just tell them you are not returning and invite them to sue if they disagree.
Social workers dont enjoy the best reputation.
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
You've cheered me up. Thank you again. Yes she is micro-chipped. If she wasn't I could just ignore the social worker!
To whom is she microchipped?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I'm assuming the owner. I have the number. Can I check with the company?
They won't tell you under the DPA. It doesn't really matter though. It is not to you and that is the point.
That is something they can rely upon to get a declaration of ownership but it is quite weak evidence per se.The bigger issue is that if she gets lost she will be returned to the original owner.The only way to resolve that is to seek an injunction forcing her to change ownership. I know that Pro Dogs Direct Ltd were dealing with a similar issue if you want to give them a call about it.