Here’s why a New York shelter allowed another person to keep a rescued cat when the former owner came forward

Lyons, NY state: This happens sometimes. A cat is lost. The cat is not microchipped so there is no identification as to the owner. Two months later the cat turns up at a cat shelter. The shelter, under New York law, hold the cat for five days and then they adopt out the cat to a new owner.

Lost rescued cat cannot be reclaimed by owner
Lost rescued cat cannot be reclaimed by owner. Screenshot from video.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Subsequently the new owner comes forward and discovers that her cat has passed through the shelter and that they have adopted her cat out to a new owner. She asks whether she can reclaim her cat and they deny her that possibility. They won’t even discuss the matter with her or even contact the new owners. Here are the reasons that they give….

They do not want to call the new owner (a) due to the uncertainty of the claim and (b) the emotional stress that the claim by the original owner puts on everyone involved.

I’d like to express my feelings about their reasons which I find a little perplexing to be honest. The uncertainty of the claim can be made certain by evidence provided by the original owner. I don’t think, therefore, that this is a good reason to deny the claim of the original owner.

As for the second reason of causing emotional stress, that clearly cannot be a good reason. It is an understandable reason but it is not a good one as emotion has no place in legal issues of this kind.

Obviously the original owner was careless in not microchipping her cat. And you could argue that she was careless in letting her cat wander or letting her cat escape – whatever happened – which resulted in the cat being lost.

You could argue that when a cat owner loses their cat the owner is at fault. But despite these errors she is still the owner of the cat. I think it very unfair that the shelter does not discuss the matter with the original owner. I think the reason why they don’t want to deal with the matter is because they do not want a complicated legal dispute to arise because at the heart of this is the issue of legal ownership of a cat.

Does losing your cat mean that you have relinquished ownership of your cat? I don’t think it does. Does adopting a shelter cat mean that you are guaranteed ownership of that cat? I don’t think it does.

I understand the shelter’s decision. They were put into a difficult situation. There might be an argument that the laws of New York state be added to, to include how shelters deal with this situation; a situation where there is competing ownership over a lost cat.

In a strictly legal sense the original owner is still the owner therefore I feel that she has been hard done by. And she is feeling a lot of stress and emotional pain as is her cat. Is this stress less than the stress that might be caused by a dispute when aired by the shelter?

The shelter is Lollypop Farm – Human Society of Greater Rochester. The cat is a long haired, male tabby ginger-and-white. The story is from

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

5 thoughts on “Here’s why a New York shelter allowed another person to keep a rescued cat when the former owner came forward”

  1. When I adopted Mercy she had been taken back by the original people who adopted her and I asked more than one question about the possibility of them deciding they wanted her back. Remember I took her before hours after they brought her back. We formed a bond right there at the shelter that was even stronger in the first three days.
    Adoption of a pet especially from a high kill shelter is emotional. You have to walk away from a hundred little faces you know are going to the dump.
    Shelters do not have the staff or time to sort through hundreds of pictures of missing pets. After the hold they become the property of the shelter and are either adopted out or euthanized. Lucky for this cat it made it out of the shelter alive with a family and most likely a chip listing the new owners.
    Chip your pets. If they had a chip with correct information they might have recourse.

  2. I understand this argument, but think what it would be like if people who adopted a shelter cat could not feel secure that the new cat was really theirs. I’m sure it would make adoption from shelters much less attractive. There has to be a cutoff point — turning up two months later and expecting the cat to be returned may be unrealistic. The humane society may have handled it badly but they had to protect the integrity of their adoption process. Not sure without more details, but hiring a lawyer might have helped the former owner — at least they wouldn’t have been completely stonewalled.
    Notice that I said “former owner” — interesting that despite the growing acceptance of animal rights, the notion of animals as property is still alive and well. Shelter and rescue law are a hot (though not lucrative!) new legal field, but many of the current issues still revolve around the problem of transfer of ownership.

  3. Ooo goody! Two more places where we can cyber-bully everyone without any concrete evidence of anything!


    (Catching on yet?)

  4. I’m glad that the cat is, seemingly, okay, but the family who lost the cat must feel gutted. I would. It’d be like losing the cat all over again. I’d be beyond devastated. I’d post about it on Facebook and make it go viral and hope that the new owners saw it and came forward.

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