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Category: Law
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Experience:  Barrister at Self Employed Barrister
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My partner and i have decided to split up. We bought a dog 3

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Hi my partner and i have decided to split up. We bought a dog 3 months ago in scotland splitting the cost. She registered the chip in her name and did not amend it to include me since the beginning of the ownership. She is now moving away taking the dog with her. Is there any action that i can take to prove the shared ownership and prevent this?
JA: Have you talked to a lawyer about this? In which country do you live? If different, which country is your legal question related to?
Customer: I live in scotland. No lawyer has been contacted yet
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: None
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
  • Let me see if I can help and please rate 5 stars. I am afraid that there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent your ex from moving away. You can make a claim that the dog is yours or that you are entitled to your share of the money or for the dog to be shared.

A dog is regarded within the legal system as a ‘chattel’. Essentially, they are viewed as an item that is owned a bit like a car or an item of furniture! We fully appreciate that to its owner a dog is more likely to be regarded as a much-loved member of the family but do not assume that this will be how it is viewed by the Court. During a dog ownership dispute, a Court will determine who the owner is. These types of ‘tug of love’ cases are usually heard in the Small Claims Court and an application can be made for declaration of ownership under the Torts (Interference With Goods) Act 1977. The following may also be ordered:

  • An order for the return of the dog
  • An order for damages for wrongful retention of the dog

In a situation where a Small Claims Court is involved, the District Judge has the power to determine who is the dog’s sole owner and they then may direct that this person has sole possession. However, a Court is not bound to require that the owner have possession of a dog as this is a discretionary remedy. In particular, the Court may have regard to the conduct of the parties (“he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”) and consider any delay there may have been (“delay defeats equity”).

If the Court rules that the dog is jointly owned, the Court may order that:-

  • possession of the dog be shared, or
  • one party has the dog (although there are no legal rules on how this should be determined), or
  • (in theory) that the disputing parties sell the dog and share the proceeds.

There is no one single piece of evidence that conclusively proves who owns a dog. A Small Claims Court will consider a variety of information when determining pet ownership and a District Judge is entitled to give such weight to this evidence as they deem fit. These include written and oral evidence on:

  • Who bought the dog (including whose name is ***** ***** contract made with the rescue centre or breeder)
  • Whose name is ***** ***** the Kennel Club
  • Who is registered on the microchip database
  • Whose name is ***** ***** the vet’s practice
  • Who is registered on the insurance certificate
  • Who usually takes care of the dog
  • Who pays the day to day expenses for the dog

I hope this helps and please rate 5 stars

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