Transference of Pet Ownership (two examples)

Informal transference of ownership of a pet is a difficult area of the law. Here are two different but similar examples with opposite outcomes.

Transference of cat ownership
Transference of cat ownership. Not. Photo by docoverachiever.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Lost Cat Rehomed Through Shelter

When a cat is lost, even temporarily, and finds her way to a shelter – perhaps because a neighbour found the cat and thought she was a stray – ownership of the cat passes to a person who adopts the cat from that shelter no matter how speedy the process.

That is the outcome from a Hillsboro shelter where they apply this rule because to do otherwise would make their work untenable. You can see what would happen. A new adopter would have doubts as to whether she would have to give the cat back if the owner suddenly turned up. On that basis you couldn’t do business.

Perhaps, there is one compromise. There might be a cooling-off period of say 5 days between the time the cat is brought to the shelter and before she is allowed to be adopted. That compromise rule may be in place at some shelters. I don’t know. I don’t think it would make much difference, anyway.

You can see how the rule could result in heartbreak for the original owner, though. You have temporarily lost your cat and within a week she is homed with someone else and you can’t do a thing about it.

By the way, I don’t know if the rules of this particular shelter have been tested in court.

Dog Found and Adopted

Where a person finds a pet animal near her home and then tries, unsuccessfully, to reunite the animal with his owner, she cannot claim that she then owns the animal. If she tries to keep the animal she might be charged with theft. This is another actual case. This time from Corvallis, Oregon and it concerns a dog.

The story does not refer accurately to the amount of time between finding the dog and then the true owner coming forward to claim his dog. This time frame must be important. What if the finder looks after a lost pet for 3 years and then the owner claims ownership? The original owner would be hard pressed, surely, to successfully reclaim his dog.

I would suggest that under these informal circumstances of pet ownership transfer, the amount of time the animal has been with the finder of the dog is a major factor in determining if transference of ownership has taken place.

Moral of These Tales

Hang on to your companion animal. If for some unfortunate reason you lose your companion animal, first (immediately) check the local animal shelter and if that proves negative search locally.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

4 thoughts on “Transference of Pet Ownership (two examples)”

  1. Babz and I were lost and found officers for our local Cats Protection for many years before having pages for this became popular on facebook rather than people having to phone in their details on our CP mobile phone.
    Our first advice was to ask all neighbours to check their sheds and garages and to ask around if any neighbours had gone away, just incase the missing cat was shut in somewhere. Then to phone all the local vets and Shelters with details and to put out posters with the cat’s picture on and offering a reward. Ask all the local delivery men to look out for the cat and local school children too.
    We reinited quite a few cats and their owners, I say owner because in law a cat is a possession.
    The best thing is to have the cat microchipped, there can be no doubt he/she belongs to someone then.
    A found unmicrochipped cat was kept a week and advertised as found, before being put up for adoption,
    It’s different here in the UK to the USA as most people allow their cats freedom, we don’t call it roaming, we call it living naturally as cats were intended to and our vets agree an indoor only cat is being deprived of a lot of quality of life.
    With proper care cats can enjoy a long happy life with freedom in moderation of course, kept in after dark and when no one is home.
    That’s the way it is here.

  2. I agree with Dan – there is a list of proactive preventative measures you can take along with measures you take in case of a situation happening. Number one – have a photo of yourself with your pet. The police need that sort of thing. Pets are property, it would be the same if it were your bike. I know from experience. Number 2, don’t stop doing everything you can until there is nothing left you can do and then go back and check from the start again. If you lost your pet and don’t do much about it then it doesn’t make you look good at all. If you lost you pet however, and you do everything you can and she turns up far away a long time later then you have to hire a lawyer and fight to the death to get your animal back. This does happen – I know of one story like this in the US earlier this year. They tried to accuse the pet mom of being uncaring yet she fosters cats and loves animals including her cat who went missing. She did all the right things but the cat turned up at an unexpected shelter and was adopted out (they missed a tattoo I believe) and the lady had to go to court over it. I don’t know what happened in the end sadly.

  3. The problem with that first story is that the family whose cat Astro (a gorgeous Maine Coon) went missing and they did??? Nothing. They didn’t see it until two weeks later on Facebook. They thought he had been eaten by coyotes. I have actually heard this excuse before (ugh!) So the shelter got the cat the renamed Harley and kept him on hold for 7 days before putting him up for adoption. This is a clear case of neglect by the first owner. How can you not look for your beloved pet at all! (shakes head and sighs) Stupid humans.

    1) micro-chip and keep the data current.
    2) check all neighbors, shelters and post flyers where appropriate.
    Note: It’s illegal to post signs on power poles in the United States. The metal light poles are fine. I even seen them on stop signs or on a homemade A-frame on the street corner. Those people loved their cat!
    3) Take pictures every month or so just in case, so you have a recent photo.
    4) Don’t let them roam! It’s just not worth the separation anxiety!

    Stupid humans!


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