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Lost Pets: Related Cases

Case Name Citation Summary
Allendorf v. Redfearn   2011 IL App (2d) 110130 (2011)   After a farm employee was injured in an all terrain vehicle (ATV) while trying to round up a bull, he sued the farm owners under the Domestic Animals Running at Large Act. The Appellate Court held that the employee could not recover under the Act, which protects members of the general public who cannot be expected to appreciate the risk posed by an animal. Because the employee was not an innocent bystander but rather was attempting to exercise control over the bull at the time he was injured, he fell within the Act's definition of an “owner” of the bull.  
Alvarez v. Clasen   946 So.2d 181 (La.,2006)   Plaintiff sued neighbors who trapped cat outside and brought it to an animal shelter where it was euthanized. This court held that private parties trapping a stray cat were not liable for conversion because local ordinances permitted animal shelters to hold stray cats.   
Arguello v. Behmke   2006 WL 205097 (N.J.Super.Ch.,2006) (not reported in A.2d)   The adoption of a dog was invalidated and the court ordered its return to the original owner. The shelter's placement of the dog with a new family was invalid because the shelter agreed that it would hold the dog for a certain period of time.  
Birmingham Humane Society v. Dickson   661 So.2d 759 (Ala.,1994)   The owner of a lost dog found the dog in an animal shelter and asked for its return. The shelter gave it back but sterilized it first despite the owner's wishes that it not be sterilized. The court held the shelter owed a duty to give the dog back without sterilizing it and affirmed a finding of negligence.  
Conti v. ASPCA   353 N.Y.S.2d 288 (N.Y.,1974)   A parrot flew away from its original owner, was found and adopted by the plaintiff, and subsequently seized by the ASPCA for return to the original owner. The finder-plaintiff brought an action of replevin to recover possession of the parrot. The court found that the bird found was the same as the one lost and it did not extinguish the original owner's right to possession by reverting to a wild state.  
Feger v. Warwick Animal Shelter   29 A.D.3d 515 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., 2006)   In this New York case, a cat owner brought suit against an animal shelter and its employee for their alleged misconduct in knowingly placing a champion cat stolen from her home for adoption by unidentified family. In ruling that the lower court properly denied the plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment, the appellate court found that there are questions of fact, inter alia, as to whether “Lucy” is “Kisses." However, the Shelter defendants are correct that the plaintiff may not recover damages for the emotional harm she allegedly suffered from the loss of her cat.  
Free v. Jordan   10 S.W.2d 19 (Ark. 1928)   In a replevin action to recover possession of a lost dog from its finder, the court reversed and remanded the case so a jury could determine whether the statute of limitations was tolled due to the defendant's alleged fraudulent concealment of his possession of the dog.  
Graham v. Notti   196 P.3d 1070 (Wash.,2008)   The court held that the adoption of a dog from an animal shelter was invalid unless the dog was found in "the city" pursuant to the shelter's contract with the local government.  
Lamare v. North Country Animal League   743 A.2d 598 (Vt. 1999)   Owners of a licensed dog that escaped while not wearing its tags filed an action against a local animal shelter that ultimately released the dog to others for adoption.  The court held that the town's actions fully complied with its animal control ordinance and that its ordinance provided ample notice to plaintiffs consistent with state law and due process requirements.  
Lincecum v. Smith   287 So.2d 625   Despite "Good Samaritan" intent, the defendant was liable for conversion where he authorized a sick puppy's euthanasia without first making reasonable efforts to locate its owner. The court also awarded $50 for the puppy's replacement value and $100 for mental anguish and humiliation.  
Morgan v. Kroupa   702 A.2d 630 (Vt. 1997)   Finder found Owner’s lost dog.  Finder posted signs in order to locate Owner.  More than a year later, the owner contacted Finder to take back the dog.  However, Finder was permitted to keep the dog, since she had cared for the dog and made good efforts to locate the true owner.  
Peloquin v. Calcasieu Parish Police Jury   367 So.2d 1246 (La.,1979)   The finders of a stray cat were able to maintain a conversion suit against their neighbors who trapped the cat and brought it to a shelter where it was euthanized.  
Placey v. Placey   51 So.3d 374 (Ala. Civ. App., 2010)   The appellate court held that the Protection from Abuse Act authorized the trial court to determine and award ownership of Preston the dog in a domestic violence dispute between a mother and daughter. It then awarded ownership rights to the mother because took better care of the Preston and it was in his best interest.  
Raymond v. Bujold   199 A. 91 (N.H.,1938)   A finder of a lost dog did not become the "keeper" of the dog when he tied it up and summoned the owner to retrieve it. The finder was therefore entitled to sue the owner for damage caused by the dog.  
Sexton v. Brown   Not Reported in P.3d, 147 Wash.App. 1005, 2008 WL 4616705 (Wash.App. Div. 1)   In this Washington case, Valeri Sexton and Corey Recla sued Kenny Brown, DVM, for damages arising from the death of their dog. Plaintiffs alleged a number of causes of action including negligence, breach of bailment, conversion, and trespass to chattels. The incident occurred after plaintiff's dog ran away while plaintiff was camping Marblemount area. Another party found the Yorkshire terrier and took it to defendant-veterinarian's office, the Pet Emergency Center (PEC). After being examined first by a one veterinarian, defendant-veterinarian Brown took over care and determined that the dog suffered from a life threatening condition; he then told the finders that if they did not want to pay for further care, they could have the dog euthanized. This court affirmed the trial court's decision that the medical malpractice act does not apply to veterinarians. It also affirmed the dismissal of Sexton's breach of bailment claim, finding that Brown was not a finder under relevant Washington law. The court did find that there were material issues of fact about the measure of damages, and reversed the decision to limit damages to the fair market or replacement value of the dog. Further, the court found genuine issues of material fact about whether Brown's actions were justified when viewed under the requirements of Washington's veterinary practice laws.  
State v. Weekly   65 N.E.2d 856   The court affirmed a conviction for stealing a dog by holding that it was a "thing of value" despite the traditional common law rule to the contrary and even though it was not taxable property.  
Terral v. Louisiana Farm Bureau Cas. Ins. Co.   892 So.2d 732 (La.,2005)   A motorcyclist hit a dog wandering on the road and sued the defendant under strict liability theory. The court found that the defendant was strictly liable because he owned the dog in fact. Although the dog was originally a stray, the court upheld a finding of ownership because the defendant regularly fed the dog and harbored it on his property.    
Webb v. Amtower   2008 WL 713728 (KS,2008 (not reported))   The court applied the forum's traditional lex loci conflict-of-laws rule to determine what jurisdiction's law governed for both damages and recovery of possession. The "place of injury" for the tort/damages issue was Kansas since that's where the contract was signed. The court remanded the case to determine the law of the place where the dog was found to determine the right-to-possession since that was a personal property issue.  
Wheatley v. Towers   358 N.E.2d 971 (Ill.,1977)   Plaintiff's dog was picked up by animal control for running-at-large. The plaintiff expressed his intent to reclaim the dog but before doing so the holding period expired and the dog was euthanized. The plaintiff sued the veterinarian for conversion. The court held that the euthanasia was not conversion because the impoundment ordinance gave the animal shelter a right to euthanize the dog after the holding period expired.  
Woods v. KittyKind, Inc.   2005 WL 1404712 (N.Y.Sup.,2005 (not reported))   The court granted the plaintiff's motion for an animal shelter to disclose the identity of her lost cat's adopter because the plaintiff alleged that the shelter did not comply with the law and its transfer of ownership was therefore invalid.  

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