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Hello, thank you for your question.
Tell me a bit more about the situation. If I had asked your boyfriend who owned the dog prior to the break up, how would he have answered?
Who purchased the dog?
You said that it was "adopted" together... did you get it from an animal shelter?
How long ago did you adopt the dog?
Well, let me explain the law so you can see where I am headed with this line of questioning...
I should start by saying that because the nuances of every case are different, this information should not be construed as complete or advice without consulting in person with counsel. That said, the question of what happens to a pet after a break-up is a common one. Unfortunately, the answer is complex. Under the law, a pet is considered a piece of property and it is therefore treated like any other piece of property. However, unlike a dresser or television set, people emotionally attach themselves to their pets (and their pets emotionally attach themselves to their owner), so that tends to muddy the waters. So the first legal question with a pet is who owns this piece of "property".
So I'm asking these questions about who paid for the animal, etc. because I am looking for indications of who is treating the animal like it is their property, and maybe if either party treated it like it was a gift to the other.
Like other property, it is entirely possible that more than one person has a property right to it. In that case, the courts are typically inclined to award the property to whomever receives greater benefit from the property and just makes the recipient "buy out" the other for its value.
The name on a pet's microchip is certainly relevant for determining ownership, but it isn't necessarily definitive. Interestingly, "the best interests" of the animal is not necessarily relevant, but the relationship of the pet to the owners can be relevant.
If one partner was responsible for feeding the animal, taking it for vet visits, training the animal, etc., the court is more inclined to award the animal to that person.
If one partner is at home all day with the animal, playing with it, taking it for walks, etc., that person will typically have a better argument for keeping the animal when the other is spending their day at work.
If we asked your boyfriend to describe his relationship and care for the animal, how might he respond?
Those are good things, but it doesn't seem like much compared to the time and energy you say that you have invested in the animal.
Well, law enforcement ordinarily has no interest whatsoever in getting involved in a couple's animal ownership dispute. If someone wants a judicial determination of the right to possess an animal, it's a matter that can and should be resolved through a civil lawsuit. A judge can then examine the facts and make a determination based on the totality of the evidence.
Most people wouldn't. Especially if they know that they could lose their case.
Certainly. When I only have one piece of one half of the story, I can't make a reliable prediction of the outcome of a case, but I do try to explain things in a way that helps people to understand the law for themselves.
Did you have any other question?
The dog is in his possession right now?
Well, as I mentioned, because the nuances of every case are different, this information should not be construed as complete or advice without consulting in person with counsel. That said, the question of how to go about repossessing an animal that was taken by someone else but belongs to you is really a question of personal strategy. It's usually an option to just "take it back", but that can be problematic because doing so sometimes require trespassing; furthermore, it usually doesn't resolve the problem because it can just lead to a tug-of-war where neither person respects the law or each other. One person takes the animal today, the other takes it back tomorrow, the first person takes it back the day after that, and so on. It's usually an option to just take the animal back, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily the best option. The preferred legal option is to file an action in replevin. Replevin is basically asking the court to order someone to give something back that belongs to you in the first place. Naturally, the disadvantage is that this requires going to court and it is less than instant.
The reason replevin is the "preferred" option is that it settles the matter once and for all. If the other person takes the animal thereafter, then law enforcement can get involved and treat it as a theft.
Sure. The best option for proceeding really depends on the situation and the preference of the individual.
Most problems can't be solved in an hour, but my goal is always to help people understand the law. Has this information been helpful?
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