About 5 days ago I almost ran over a cat sitting in the road. I got out checking on the animal and found that it was not hurt. I noticed a collar but no tags and wanted to find its owner. One of the passing neighbors explained that the cat was a stray and the people in home near the road tried taking it in but the animal did not get along with the other pets in the home. So they put the cat out, but did provide food, water and a trip to the vet for shots. The neighbor also informed me that the homeowners are on a vacation and won’t be home for several weeks. I was not comfortable with the animal running loose and decided to take it home so it had a roof over its head. The neighborhood has lots of wild animals like coyotes, raccoons, fox, and hawks. After getting home we found out the animal was not fixed and it started spraying everything in sight. Against our better judgment we decided to return the cat to the location of it almost getting run over, and ran into the home owner’s son who came to look after the other pets. I explained that he was lying in the street and I almost ran it over. His response was that the animal likes to do that. I then asked if this cat belonged to his parents and his reply was no not really and he gave me the same story that he was a stray that they tried to take in but could not so he was put out. He thanked us and took off leaving the cat outside once again. We went to dinner and arrived home to find the cat at our door, and he kept crying to come in for about 5 hours. In the morning he was gone, but arrived soon after now crying at our back door. It was obvious that he wanted to stay at our place but we would need to get him fixed in order for that to happen. I did leave a note at the other home explaining that we are caring for him and will provide a good home along with my name and phone number. Got the cat back from the vet and he is very well adjusted with our other cats, happy, and most of all safe. However, the son called and said that they wanted him back. I don't believe they had true ownership since the cat was a stray and was left to defend for itself. Do they have any legal recourse to get the animal back? I live in Illinois and I’m sorry I left that note. The intention was that they would not fear that the animal got killed.
Country relating to Question: United States
State (if USA): Illinois
Thanks for the chance to help. I am an attorney with over 12 years experience. Hopefully I can help you with your legal question.You ask a good question...can they claim ownership of the cat now?They can. Under the law pets (like cats) are considered "chattel" or property. If they wanted to try and sue you to recover the cat, the court would treat it in the same way as other property. What you describe? It sounds like they may have abandoned this cat. Just like with other property, if you abandon it, then any other person can take the property and claim ownership.In your case, if it is clear that the previous owners abandoned the cat and you took the cat to care for it and keep it safe, the court will not likely give the cat back to the folks who owned it prior.The other fact to this is cost. Specifically the cost to file suit. If they want to force you to return the cat, they will need a court order. And to obtain a court order they will have to hire a lawyer and file suit in Circuit Court and ask the judge to order you return the cat. So unless or until they pay the money to hire the lawyer to file a lawsuit, you have little to worry.
Law Degree, 12 Years of trial experience
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