I am co-owner of my ex-boyfriend's border collie, who is 5. I live in Montana, the ex lives in Idaho. The dog has been in chronic pain for 6 months, following a leg injury that was treated unsuccessfully by a veterinarian in Idaho. I brought the dog to Montana for a specialist's consultation. She recommended a risky but often successful surgery, to be performed by a orthopedic surgeon. My ex wants to have the surgery done in Idaho, by a much less qualified vet (the one who did not treat the condition successfully in the beginning). I am willing to pay for the surgery here in Montana, but my ex has threatened to sue me if he does not get the dog back today. Can he? What can I do?
Good morning. As co-owner, you have as much right to the dog as your co-owner. If you have possession of the dog and are co-owner, you can authorize the surgery. You can never prevent someone from filing a claim, but he would not prevail in such a suit on these facts.
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What is necessary to prove co-ownership?
If the dog is a registered pedigree, one's name on the papers. Receipt of payment for the dog or one's name on any adoption papers. If there are none of those, then possession indicates ownership in absence to proof to the contrary.
What if it's a sort of "common law" situation: ie, the dog resided with me as a puppy, I did the house-breaking, obedience training, vet visits, care while my ex was working, care while my ex was out of town, bought the right kind of dog food (he's a high-energy border collie). He was "our" dog (although we have always retained separate residences). Just 2 months ago my ex asked if the dog could stay with me while he was out of town for several days. I offered to take the dog to Montana for the 2nd opinion on his condition, since my ex was too busy. However, he is maintaining that he is the actual owner. I am not sure if he has a bill of sale, but he did write the check in 2007.
You can really approach this two ways....you have possession so you can pursue the surgery and make him file suit and sustain the burden of ownership. And, even though he may have paid for the dog, given your possession, you can claim the dog was given to you as a gift.. It's a he said/she said situation and I can't tell you how a judge might rule.
Thank you very much for all of this! You are really helping me understand this. One last question: since I took the initiative to get the 2nd opinion and paid the bill of $336.00, and will pay for the specialist's surgery this week in Montana, will that help my case?
Yes....also, since you have possession and are a presumptive co-owner based on these facts, you can proceed with the surgery. You're welcome. It's been my pleasure to have been able to assist you. Take care....and I wish the dog the best in the upcoming surgery.
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