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I run a boarding facility for dogs in North Carolina. I had

a woman drop by unannounced...
I run a boarding facility for dogs in North Carolina. I had a woman drop by unannounced (no appointment) with a Pitbull we hadn't seen in almost 3 years on February 26th, 2013. She wanted to board him for a week. I had her fill out new paperwork and accepted the dog. To date, I still have the dog. The last time I spoke with her was on April 1st, 2013, where she hung up on me after telling her that she needs to pay half of her bill by noon the next day. She will not answer my phone calls, nor respond to any of my emails. She did send two guys down to the facility about a month ago to ask if we had any "Pitbulls for adoption" and as the dog is not legally (as far as I know) in our possession, they were told no. She then proceeded to file a report with the dog's microchip company, who then sent out a "MISSING DOG" alert. I called the company and cleared that up, though they could not retract the alert, since it was paid for. The woman has told me time and time again that she has no money, and that she was possibly moving out of state.

I have a rescue willing to take him in, and adopt him out. I am working on a certified letter to send her demanding payment and the pickup of her dog by May 23rd, 2013 - 10 days after the letter is scheduled to be sent - or the dog will be deemed abandoned and in our discretion to rehome/dispose of. The only laws in our state that I know of are listed under "Veterinary facilities" not boarding. I would expect it to act the same for a facility such as ours, but I'm not sure.

Am I on the right path? I know we can take her to small claims to attempt to collect payment after the dog is in our possession, but what else could she be charged with? Abandonment? Theft of Services?

Any assistance would be appreciated.
Thanks!
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
5/12/2013
Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4,829
Experience: Experienced in both state and federal court.
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TexLawyer :

Good evening. I'll be assisting you with your qestion.

TexLawyer :

*question.

TexLawyer :

You are on the right path. Under the law, dogs are treated as any other personal property. As such, the question is whether or not this dog as been legally abandoned. Once property has been abandoned, it can be claimed by anyone with possession.

TexLawyer :

In order to determine if property has been abandoned in the legal sense, courts look to the intent of the party abandoning the property.

Customer:

Given, at the end of the 10 day period after the letter is sent, if we do not receive payment and the dog is not picked up, do we legally obtain possession of the dog?

TexLawyer :

In a case like this, one of the best things you can do (which is exactly what you are planning on doing) is sending a certified letter to her address informing her that you still have the dog, and that at the end of the time period you give her (I recommend 30 days), you will dispose of the dog (or whatever you plan on doing with it).

TexLawyer :

Legally, you have ownership of the dog from the moment she abandons it. Part of abandonment is showing that she left it with no intent of reclaiming it.

TexLawyer :

Another factor working for you is the fact that she told you she cannot pay and is moving out of state. That would indicate an intent to leave the dog with no intent to reclaim it.

Customer:

Eek, 30 days? We've already had him well over what she scheduled - nearly 3 1/2 months past, with no contact with her since April 1st. She has not stepped foot in our facility since the day she dropped him off. We have a rescue waiting on the go-ahead from us, to begin his adoption process. Will it look bad if we only give her 10 days, though she's had months prior to?

TexLawyer :

There is no requirement that it is 30 days, but that is my general rule of thumb. Obviously, the longer time you give her the stronger your position is. However, if you feel confident she intended to abandon the dog, then you can go with a shorter time period. If you could, however, I'd try to extend it to 14 days; a full 2 weeks.

Customer:

I can handle that I think. Now as far as other charges - abandonment, theft of services, etc. - is there anything we can tack on to her bill other than monthly interest?

TexLawyer :

To prove theft of services, you have to show that she never had an intent to pay when she dropped the dog off. That said, the simplest way to go about this is just to sue her in small claims court for breach of contract.

Customer:

Well she did say during a phone conversation that the owner of the company knew she had no money and should have known better than to tell her she could board.

TexLawyer :

You can make a police report, but I highly doubt they would take any action against her. They generally don't like to get involved in things like that.

Customer:

Yeah, I figured. Thank you so much. I feel better about what we're doing now. I hate it happened but then again we have a chance to give him the home he deserves. Thank you so much!

TexLawyer :

My pleasure. I hope things work out for both you and the dog.

TexLawyer :

If there isn't anything else I can do for you, please remember to "rate" my answer. Have a great night.

Customer:

Thanks! You as well.

Chris T., JD
Chris T., JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 4,829
Experience: Experienced in both state and federal court.
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