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Gerald, Esq
Gerald, Esq, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 3298
Experience:  30 years of experience
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We are a dog boarding facility in Texas. We have a client

Customer Question

We are a dog boarding facility in Texas. We have a client who dropped their dog off for a week of boarding. They kept extended the stay with stories about home and financial issues. Now the dog has been with us for over a month with no payment. The outstanding bill is $1,334. We offered him a payment plan to make 4x $200 payments every Friday to total $800 then we would release the dog and waive further charges. He missed his payment. When we would not allow him to see the dog without payment he has become aggressive and combative.We then found out that prior to bringing his dog to us he pulled this same scam on another boarding facility in town who then released his dog to the county shelter when he wouldn't pay a $1,000+ bill.We have decided the best course is to cut ties with the client. When trying to pursue theft of service charges, the sheriff has said this is a civil matter and that the dog is property and that we have the same relationship with this client as a storage unit. That if he doesn't pay we just keep the dog as property.I have had this situation with rent homes before and the lease had to have specific language about liens to be able to keep the property. Our services agreement that the client signs doesn't cover this happening... our agreement only says abandoned dogs will be surrendered after 7 days. I don't know if he has legally abandoned the dog as he contacts us a couple times each week. He just wont pay.What steps do I need to follow to correctly demand payment and if unpaid, keep the dog and end contact with this client?
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Gerald, Esq replied 10 months ago.
Hello,Thank you for using Just Answer. I want to provide you the best service I can. Please feel free to ask any follow up questions you have.I am an attorney with 30 years of experience; I hope to provide you information that will help you in resolving your question.Absent a Court Order directing otherwise you can keep the dog until the owner pays the money owed. You could turn it over to the County shelter as the previous Boarding facility did. If the breed is of some value you can obtain a lien on the dog. It is not automatic. To do this and/or recover your costs, bring a lawsuit in Small Claims Court for the passed due bill and ongoing costs. The limit for Small Claims in Texas is $10,000.00. You do not need an attorney to bring the action. You do have to pay filing fees and service costs, which are recoverable in the judgment. This pamphlet describes the Small Claims Court Process. https://www.depts.ttu.edu/sls/forms/How-to-Sue-in-Small-Claims-Court.pdf Your County Court will have the forms you need. Or you can find them here and modify them for your County: http://www.jp.hctx.net/forms Here is the initial Petition: http://www.jp.hctx.net/forms/2013%20APPROVED%20FINAL%20RULES%20-%20WEBSITE%20DOWNLOADABLE%20FORMS/CV-Petition,%20Small%20Claims%20Case%20502.2.pdf As to the police. If you speak to the patrol officers, or call in you will get the "It's a Civil Matter" line. You need to call in and make an appointment with a detective and be polite but insistent that this is a criminal theft of services matter and that you insist on filing a criminal complaint. If they refuse or deter you contact the County District Attorney's Office and make an appointment to file a criminal complaint with that office. The police often use the "civl matter" line to deter people from making the criminal complaint on minor matters that they do not want to work on. Unless you make a little bit of a pest of yourself they won't do anything even though the issue is clearly a criminal code violation. See here: http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/penal-code/penal-sect-31-04.html I hope the information I provide is useful to you. I want you to be comfortable and satisfied with my attempt to assist you. Please, if you have ANY follow up questions, feel free to ask. Please note that I am generally unavailable Friday evening through Sunday. Please do not forget to give me a positive rating. It adds nothing to your costs but it helps me greatly. Thank you.If you are dissatisfied with my response PLEASE let me know before giving me a negative review so that I may try to be of better assistance. Or if you prefer, let me know and I can “Opt Out” and your question can be re-posted without additional cost to you. I will be fair to you and only ask the same from you.Good luck. Please note: Information is educational and not given as legal advice. Only your local attorney can give legal advice. I can't establish or accept an attorney-client relationship with you. All posts are available for public viewing. Kind regards,Gerald
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Regarding theft of service. Which specific paragraph applies to me? Which notice/demand am I required to give and how?
Expert:  Gerald, Esq replied 10 months ago.
This section clearly applies: (a)(4) the actor intentionally or knowingly secures the performance of the service by agreeing to provide compensation and, after the service is rendered, fails to make full payment after receiving notice demanding payment. You should have already sent the customer a Bill for services rendered. If you have not already done so you can incorporate the bill with a Demand Letter. Here is an example of a Demand letter: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/small-claims-book/chapter6-4.html Do not threaten criminal action in your demand letter. You can use the phrase "all legal remedies available to me." The Bill and/or Demand letter constitute sufficient notice that the money's are over due. At this stage the conduct is (e) (3) a Class A misdemeanor if the value of the service stolen is $750$500 or more but less than $2,500$1,500; I hope this additional information is helpful to you. Kind regards,Gerald (Please do not forget to rate me – click the five stars. It adds nothing additional to your costs, but it helps me greatly. Plus it is good Karma for you. Thank you.)
Customer: replied 10 months ago.
Thank you. Last question. I believe the arguement will be that criminal theft of service is about intention. Can someone really be charged with theft of service if they can't pay? He is offering to make payments/signaling an intention to pay but an inability to.
Expert:  Gerald, Esq replied 10 months ago.
Hello: Thank you for the excellent follow up question. Intent is always a difficult thing to prove. Fortunately, you do not need to prove intent in the civil action, just that you were not paid. In the criminal action it is the District Attorney's job to prove intent (not the victims job). Usually intent is proven by the totality of the circumstances. The fact that this person has done this before is a good indication of intent. Good luck. Kind regards,Gerald