Help me legally and ethically adopt my dog from a crazy LA rescue org.
January 22, 2014 11:09 PM   Subscribe

When we brought home a new pup from a local rescue organization three months ago, we had no idea we were getting involved with a Crazy Lady. The adoption STILL isn't finalized and we really want to make it official and never deal with them again. Help me understand if their requests are reasonable and officially adopt my dog!

So, we brought home our darling Maggie from a small local animal rescue in mid-October 2013. The foster mom reviewed our application then said, "Give her a week or so in your house, and if it works out, we will complete all the paperwork and you can provide your $300 donation." Cool! After a few days, we know that everything is great with Maggie (she is basically the best decision I ever made) - it's the people who I have an issue with.

I wrote out a long explanation of what happened in November/December 2013 and January 2014, but it boils down to: They are too inept to finalize the adoption in a reasonable amount of time, and now I'm not sure I want to formalize it under their conditions. I have been proactively and repeatedly requesting a copy of their adoption contract so that I can sign it and provide payment over the past three months, but they SUCK at communication. If the coordinator responds to my requests, she says something like "great, we'll send it!" then she never sends the darn contract. I offer multiple times to just register the dog on my own, but she says that the contract needs to come first (then she doesn't send the contract, so I request it again, etc etc).

Finally, last night, I decide that after 3-almost-4 months I've had enough. I send them a nice email thanking them for saving her and stating that I plan to register the dog with the microchip companies and the city by myself. This morning at 8am, the coordinator calls me and basically accuses me of stealing the dog. She accuses me of willfully ignoring the contract that she "sent" (NOPE!), tells me she's going to tell the microchip companies not to release the dog, and accuses me of trying to get out of the adoption fee. Gah! Exactly the opposite of everything I have ever said! She is extremely confrontational during this call, and it's also just super, super, super frustrating.

She finally sends me the contract this time, but when I open it, it contains a number of clauses that I think are crazy. Are they crazy? Actual excerpts below:

1) [Rescue Org] will be the primary guardian of the animal for life. You agree to provide at least two contact numbers to [Rescue Org] and you will maintain current information with [rescue org] and Avid for the Dog's life.

2) You agree not to abandon, give away, sell or dispose of the dog in any way and to notify us immediately if you no longer want to, or no longer can, keep the dog. You will be responsible for transportation of the dog back to Los Angeles [or LAX] in the case of a return and to work with us financially to board the dog. You agree that you may never surrender the dog to ... any other rescue/shelter/sanctuary entity other than [rescue org]. ... Without waiving any of our rights under this agreement, if any portion of this clause is violated, you will owe us a payment in the amount of $7,500.00 agreed between us as just and reasonable liquidated damages to compensate us for our costs and expenses in connection with your breach of this agreement.

3) In the event that you do not comply with the terms of this agreement, or the dog is abused or neglected, one of our remedies will be to recover the dog from you upon demand. ... in addition, without waiving any of our rights under this agreement, if you do not surrender the dog to us, you will owe us a payment in the amount of $7,000.00 agreed between us as just and reasonable damages ... and we reserve the right to reacquire the dog.

4) You agree to notify [rescue org] immediately if you have any change of home or business telephone numbers and addresses.

5) No liability. The charity and any individuals you work with the charity on not liable for any claims, legal actions, losses, injuries, damages, costs, expenses or liabilities whatsoever in connection with your adoption or ownership of the dog. [This only seems crazy in light of the above.]

We LOVE this dog, she is part of our family, and we will never mistreat, abandon, or otherwise breach the elements of this contract relating to the care of the dog. But after my conversation with this woman today, my preference is to never, ever communicate with her again. SO, questions!

A) Is this contract crazy?
B) If so... what do I do? What are my risks if I don't sign the contract? Can she really prevent the microchip companies from registering me as the dog's owner? My preference is a solution that means I send her a final email detailing how I have handled this, then never talk to her again, while I maintain ownership of my dog.
C) I don't want to give this woman any money if I don't have to. But, I was thinking I could donate the money to the foster mom, or maybe to the LA animal shelter - I'm not trying to escape the cost, just the crazy.

I am located in Los Angeles, CA. The dog was rescued by [Rescue Org] from Downey, the LA County shelter. Finally, and I only found this out today, apparently this rescue has only 2.5 stars on Yelp after 16 reviews, with all of the negative reviews being about this person in particular, and the positive reviews primarily from foster parents. Sigh.
posted by samthemander to Pets & Animals (43 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Send the payment first. Write in the memo, Adoption fee for Dog (dog's name and ID number). Wait until they cash it. After they cash it, forget her nutty contract and register your dog.
posted by cairdeas at 11:34 PM on January 22, 2014 [28 favorites]

I adopted my cat from the SPCA in Los Angeles, and some of the clauses in my adoption contract sound fairly similar to me to the clauses in yours. Here are the relevant clauses in my contract if you want to compare them for yourself:

To return the animal to the spcaLA if I, as Adoptor, desire to relinquish custody and will not abandon the animal, in violation of State Penal Code Section 597s.

To permit the spcaLA as of the date of this Contract to Investigate at any time the premises where the animal is kept and to reclaim the animal if, in the judgment of the investigator, the animal is not being adequately cared for, if I have not complied with any provision of the Contract, or if I have misrepresented any fact to the spcaLA. In the event that I fail or refuse to return said animal upon demand, I hereby agree to pay all reasonable attorney's fees for the spcaLA in the event that an attorney is consulted or if a suit is brought for the return of the animal.

I understand the spcaLA does not make any warranties or guarantees, expressed or implied, as to the health, bloodlines or temperament of the adopted animal and I agree to indemnity and hold the spcaLA harmless from any and all liabilities which may arise in connection with possession or ownership and the adoption thereof. I agree that the spcaLA is in no way responsible for any damage which the animal may do to another person, animal or property.

For what it's worth, the last time the SPCA contacted me about my cat/the adoption was when they called me to say I could pick her up -- this contract has had zero affect on my life since. If you're a responsible pet owner and never have to deal with animal control, I doubt the contract will have any affect on yours, either.
posted by rue72 at 11:35 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

What I read is she can decide to take the dog back at any time and if you resist, which you will because the dog is your dog, then she gets to fine to $7,000 as she takes your dog. And you can't take her to court over it. Cairdeas' advice is good. I am not a lawyer but I wouldn't sign that contract. There is no mention of who decides if the dog will be taken, or who decides about the fees but it sounds like she will be judge, jury, and dog snatcher.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:09 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's a dog, not a child. There is no formal adoption process for a dog. Nobody has ever asked me if I was the legitimate adoptive owner of my dog.

Send them a check for the $300 and stop returning their calls.

Re their contract.

1. is kiiiind of crazy? I don't know, my dog came from a shelter. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to bring him back there in the event that I can't keep him and can't find a good home for him myself, but no, they're not the "primary owner". I am.

2. The money thing sounds weird to me, as does the clause about not rehoming the dog yourself. It's one thing if the alternative is the pound, but I don't know, if you need to give up your dog and you know someone who is an ideal owner, that should be sufficient.

3. Reserving the right to "reacquire" the dog under any circumstances beyond abuse sounds sketchy to me.

4. Hahalol bullshit, but, again, my dog came from a shelter. They do not care where I live aside from the ability to send me junk mail.

5. Sounds normal, though kind of pie in the sky if they also expect to be "primary owner".

IANAL, but it sounds to me like if you don't sign this contract, none of these outrageous things apply to you. So... don't sign it. Again, just send them their $300 that you agreed to pay and move on.

Also, re microchipping, I would ask your vet about this.
posted by Sara C. at 12:18 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've signed contracts similar to the one rue72 references, from a Humane Society shelter. But yours sounds a bit severe. It sounds like the dog might be chipped to the agency? Do they have to sign a transfer of ownership form over to you in order for you to chip the dog to your name? I'd verify that first (does the dog even have a chip?). Because if the dog ever gets lost or runs away, who do you want someone to call? You or her?

Also the bit about guardianship sounds like they are keeping ownership of the dog and what, leasing it to you? So who is liable if the dog bites someone?

I'd get a lawyer to look it over and find out what your legal standing is in regard to the dog. You've had it in your possession for 3 months with no contract and you're not a foster person, so obviously the intent to adopt is there on both sides. These are all questions I'd be asking an attorney. If she pushes you to sign right away, just say you never sign anything without an attorney looking at it first. If she balks at that, say, well, you took 3 months to get it to me, a couple of weeks won't hurt.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:20 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Beautiful dog. Maybe change gears and have the fellow in the picture reach out to this lady. She might respond to him better. Does this lady run the rescue org herself or is there someone else you could talk to about all this?

Do you have an adoption application from back when you took possession of YOUR dog? If so, what does it say about the fees and rules for adoption? Does she have an adoption application posted on her website that explains all these terms or is she is just now telling you about them? The $7500 fine is outrageous and makes the whole situation sound like a huge scam. I hope you kept emails, notes, receipts from everything you did for your dog since you took possession of her.

You might try calling the county animal shelter where you would register your dog and ask their advice, because what this lady is demanding you do is insane and she might be on their radar. I would even call the county animal shelter where she resides, if it's different than yours, to inquire about her and dog adoption rules/laws. Surely you are not the first to have issues with this person. Have you performed a simple Internet search on her and her rescue org to see if there are any complaints?

I agree that talking to a lawyer might help, but not before talking to the county. I would hold off sending money until you talk to a lawyer. And I would definitely not sign that contract. I would not tell her that you are talking to a lawyer because she sounds crazy and who knows what she would do.
posted by wherever, whatever at 1:22 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: So if you don't sign the contract, and don't send them a donation, what can happen? The coordinator of a 501 c (3) organization whose charter is to find good homes for dogs may stand before a judge and ask for the dog to be removed from its home of 4+ months because a contract was not signed and a donation was not made?
posted by Sophont at 1:45 AM on January 23, 2014

I would not sign that contract in a million years, even if it meant returning the dog. I wonder what she would say if you told her to come pick up the dog because you aren't signing that contract. I suspect she'd be a bit more amenable to a conversation.
posted by empath at 1:54 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hiya. The contract is actually not that nutty. If a rescue places a dog with you and later finds out that you are fighting it or using it for a bait dog, they need a mechanism for taking back the dog and I suspect that in your jurisdiction, the "guardian" clause is it.

Most breeders have clauses in their (much longer, much nuttier contracts) stating that you are to return the dog to them at your expense for rehoming and are never to rehome the dog yourself. So that isn't really that nutty either.

Having said all of that, I would just send them the dog and the contract because I suspect the financial aspect is utterly unenforceable anyway. Alternatively I would talk to a contract lawyer. DO NOT call and tell them to pick up the dog, though, because you may very well find your previously totally unorganised rescue is suddenly very organised when you make them think you don't really want the dog and it becomes a welfare issue.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:59 AM on January 23, 2014

DarlingBri: "Hiya. The contract is actually not that nutty. ...

Most breeders have clauses in their (much longer, much nuttier contracts) stating that you are to return the dog to them at your expense for rehoming and are never to rehome the dog yourself. So that isn't really that nutty either.

Sorry, but I disagree, this contract is nutty. It may be legal, but it's still nutty. This is what gives private rescues a bad name and why I wish they'd leave at least some animals in the public shelters instead of hoarding. I will not give anyone permission to drop by and "inspect" my house or "inspect" my animal after I have given the agreed-upon adoption fee; this goes double for any right of repossession. I didn't finance the dog, no takebacksies.

Samthemander, it is your decision at this point as to whether or not you agree with the proposed contract. Dogs (and most other companion animals) are basic property under the eyes of the law. Property can be encumbered by contracts and you can either negotiate or walk away. Personally, I couldn't do it no matter how much I liked the dog.
posted by fireoyster at 2:18 AM on January 23, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: This is the kind of contract i'd expect to see from some nutty high end breeder hawking $10k show dogs, not a shelter. Anyone saying it's "not that nutty" is part of the problem. I actually used to own a dog from a nutty breeder like that, and my parents just laughed at the contract and never signed it. Dog was registered in my name, and as far as i know still is(he was later stolen :((( )

All of these are vaguely worded to sound kinda reasonable until you actually dig in to what you're saying, probably to make them easy to shut people down on who give them any pushback with aggressive, high pressure sales tactic style people at their office or after the fact on the phone.

1. is blatantly nutty. What, did they get the idea from banks holding the title of your car until you pay off the loan? You aren't making payments on this dog to them, it's YOUR dog.

2. is nutty on the "you will pay all the fees to get back to LA with this dog even if you move to florida" bit, and also the $7500 fee. what a bunch of crap.

3. is more of two, same ridiculous dollar amount

4. yea, who would want these people to have your contact info after 1, 2, and 3?

5. i absolutely agree is wacky when looked at in the context of the other ones.

A normal contract for stuff like this is essentially "you will make the best effort to return the dog to the shelter if you can't take care of him, we will always accept your dog back and do our best to get a new home for him! pleaaase come back with him if you cant keep him for any reason at any point in his life" MINUS the ridiculous fees and fines and such. Which, not a lawyer, but is any of that crap even really enforceable? I depressingly imagine it might be in some way because like a lot of rich white people hobbies, tons of money flies around in dog and show dog circles... but oh well.

I think your number one mistake here was, and this is a common rookie mistake when dealing with crazy assholes so i don't blame you, telling them "hey, you're being obtuse and useless so i'm going to take this clear end-run route around you that i have" because that just gives them the opportunity to cockblock you if they are even capable of that. The correct response would have been somewhere between what cairdeas suggested(which is what i would do now!) and just "Hey, i registered the dog already because you guys weren't following up with me in a timely manner, but i'm making a good faith effort to hold up my end of the deal here and get you the donation i promised. what's up?"

In the future give someone ONE chance, two if they aren't being weird or aggressive to do what they said... then start looking at what your options are for cutting that person out the circuit of actions you need to take to complete whatever your goal was. The fact that she was saying she'd call the microchip place and tell them not to let you is essentially her admitting you had an open route to do an end-run there. Honestly, i'd see if it was still open.
posted by emptythought at 3:01 AM on January 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't have any advice about whether the contract is or is not insane, but if you decide to sign and you're still having trouble dealing with this person on the phone, can you go to their office/premises with $300 and say that you're there to sign the contract? It's a lot harder to fob someone off to their face when they're standing there in your office prepared to do the thing they're asking you to do but not following through on their end of.

I wouldn't bring the dog to this meeting if it were me, but ymmv.
posted by terretu at 4:02 AM on January 23, 2014

If there is a chip already in the dog, it is registered to someone and that someone probably can prevent you from changing the registration.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:31 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

The lovely fact that rue72's contract has never been enforced does not mean that you should ever sign a document that you're uncomfortable with.
posted by thejoshu at 4:42 AM on January 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Starting on page 15 of this pdf is the adoption agreement for Best Friends, which basically the preeminent/best rescue organization in the country. It includes "ultimate ownership" and seizure procedures clauses. So, I wouldn't be too concerned over those. The $7500 liquidated damages thing is not normal though.

IMO, these agreements are mostly so that you have notice of what you should and shouldn't do with your dog (basically "dont adopt this dog if you're just going to let it run away, go to the pound, and get euthanized").

Don't sign anything you're uncomfortable with, but also don't put too much stock in these agreements.

Send them a check, wait until it clears, keep your dog. You can always get a new microchip inserted.
posted by melissasaurus at 4:48 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: will owe us a payment in the amount of $7,500.00...

I just confirmed a guess as to the source of this amount. $7500 is the maximum amount one can sue for in Small Claims in California. So, they're aiming to get the largest possible judgement against you that they can without having to hire a lawyer.
posted by jon1270 at 4:50 AM on January 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Send the check, don't sign the contract. If you want to go the extra mile, You can write up a contract of your own, including the things in her contract you can agree to, where you promise to do what you'd regularly do and add the phrase:

"We are Maggie's family, we love her and will care for her and make all decisions in her best interest."

At some point either your crazy rescue lady will back down and cash the check, or she's just a big ball of crazy and she'll take you to court. Where a judge will laugh in her face and tell her to get a life.

As for registering the chip. If push comes to shove, you can get another chip implanted. Our vet charges $35. But I doubt very seriously that it will come to that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:07 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm also wondering whether referring to the $7500 amount using terms like costs, expenses, and damages might put a hole in the enforceability of the contract, since it's hard to imagine they could document $7500 worth of actual damages. The insupportability of such claims is probably why they use the phrase "agreed between us" in both clauses, i.e. to make actual costs, expenses and damages irrelevant. Those would be things to ask a lawyer about.

If I were feeling daring I'd be tempted to amend the contract subtly, inserting the words "up to" before the amounts and deleting the phrase "agreed between us" after the amounts. IANAL but it seems to me that those changes would convert it from a Sword of Damocles to a mere acknowledgement that the organization could, like anyone else in the country, possibly sue you.
posted by jon1270 at 5:12 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's crazy, but I'm pretty sure contracts like this are floating around on the internet and a lot of these rescue groups haven't actually consulted an attorney. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but I strongly suspect that these exist mostly to make the rescues feel better about themselves when they give the animals up, and the vast majority of them do not actually make any attempt to keep ongoing contact. (I have seen versions that included the promise to allow the rescue to inspect your dwelling yearly forever, and there's a particular problem with cats with them threatening to take them back and assess damages if you ever have the cat declawed.) As a result, a lot of people basically elect to sign them with the idea that the risk is low that anything bad is going to happen. How comfortable you are with that is totally up to you.
posted by Sequence at 5:37 AM on January 23, 2014

Contracts are a negotiation. It's not all or nothing where you either sign it as is or you don't sign at all. If you think some of the terms are crazy, strike through them (and, if applicable, write in some terms that are reasonable). Kill her with kindness in all your communications, but stand firm and explain why you made the changes you made.

Liquidated damages are on pretty shaky ground generally, but I understand why you don't want to put your signature on a piece of paper with that high a number on it. Personally, and TINLA, I would cross it out. If she balks, I'd say, "I need to be able to use my earnings for the care and protection of Maggie, not to save it all up in case you ever decide to sue me."
posted by payoto at 6:08 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Agree generally that this is ridiculous. I suppose I might use the word 'extreme' rather than 'nutty'. It's a great example of the extreme rescue activist mindset.

As payoto noted above, you are free to write your own contract. I'd do that, either by generating something entirely new, or following payoto's 'cross out what you don't like' methodology. If it isn't bad manners for her to present you with a contract, it isn't bad manners for you to present her with one.
posted by Mr. Justice at 6:26 AM on January 23, 2014

I understand why some rescue organizations have contracts like this. It's basically about making sure an animal doesn't go from one bad home to another. Contracts like this really aren't a big deal if you can be sure that the rescue organization is a reliable and reasonable group that trusts adopters to be honest in their intentions and love for the animal.

That said, this rescue organization has yet to show itself as reliable and reasonable for a few reasons:

1. You have been living with the dog (although not officially fostering the dog) on a trial period for months now and they haven't taken the initiative to visit, take the dog back, or send a contract.

2. You have requested a contract multiple times and they have said things along the lines of "that sounds great" and then not sent you anything.

3. After their lapse in activity, they immediately have jumped to the conclusion you are "stealing" the dog.

I'm sure Maggie is wonderful, but her primary guardian (the rescue organization) is clearly not the group you would want to have a continued relationship with. Cut your losses before they get larger, return Maggie and look for a more responsible rescue organization.
posted by donut_princess at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2014

Just popping in to say that, no, contracts are not always a negotiation. I think some of the provisions are typical and some are overreaching but don't expect a pleasant reaction if you try to revise the contract (based on the prior interactions).

I am a lawyer but not your lawyer. There can be issues of enforceability for "sign it or leave it" contracts but as a practical matter people sign them all the time.

2nding contacting the local shelter for advice.
posted by argyle dreams at 6:36 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

we adopted a dog right before Christmas and the contract had some similar language without the crazy dollar amounts. I thought the application and contract we had was kind of ridiculus. It pales in comparison to what you are dealing with.

Can you talk to someone else there? During our adoption, i finally had to contact someone i knew on the board and circumvented the whole online application process because the person who was supposed to be doing it was so slow and disorganized. If there is someone else you can contact, i might write them a letter explaining what is happening and include the donation without the contract or with an altered contract. If there is noone else, is there an online payment option where you get an automatic receipt? If so, i would utilize that, print it and mail it in with an explanation of what dog it is for.
posted by domino at 6:42 AM on January 23, 2014

We adopted a dog from a rescue last year and they had a similar contract, although the amount was only $2500 or something like that. Having worked with rescues before, the rescue maintaining ownership isn't unusual either. They feel responsible for that dog, and have seen people do terrible things to them, so they need to make sure they know who is taking care of the dog and can take it back if you aren't being a responsible owner.

Is it nutty? Sure. But I don't think it's unusual. It's a little annoying - I have to send my rescue updated vet records. But at the same time, when I had an issue, they were extremely helpful and responsive.
posted by thejanna at 6:56 AM on January 23, 2014

Best answer: I agree, just send the check and wait for them to cash it. Don't worry, they will.

In the future, you could word such final emails a bit differently;
"After our initial conversation on 10/1, where you told me to take the dog for a week (...), I contacted you via email on 11/1, 12/1, and 1/1. To date I still have not received the contract. I wish to finalize the adoption at this time. Please make sure I get a copy of the contract by (7 working days, 10 working days, this may depend on your jurisdiction)."

Wait the 7 or 10 days, and then send the check. Once it's cashed, do the registration. No need to threaten her with "I'm just going to go ahead and register the dog", that's the part that set her off, regardless of whether she was at fault for being disorganized.
posted by vignettist at 7:22 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

If your dog does not already have a chip in it, any vet will put a chip in with your name attached for like $20. Similarly, registering the dog with the city requires nothing more than filling out a form. You in no way need anyone's permission to do either. If the dog already has a chip, I'm not sure what would be best.

I agree that the contract is nutty, and is in no way justified by vague concerns about animal abuse. In addition to what others have mentioned, it appears that if you take the contract literally, 2 would prevent you from putting the dog down at the end of its life (and this is definitely not a decision you'll want to consult Crazy Lady on when the time comes). I would probably send in the payment with no contract and then reassess, but I am pretty confrontational over stuff like this. Unfortunately, I also agree that nutty contracts are not uncommon in the alternate reality that is pet adoption. I have adopted two animals from two agencies, and both times never spoke to them again after going home with the animal.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:28 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I adopted a cat from a group of earnest but overworked volunteers who dearly love cats and are a little crazy. Their contract included similar clauses (I don't know about them being the primary guardian but it did say that if we can no longer keep the cat, we are to give it back to them - basically, points 2, 3 and 5). We adopted her in October and I haven't heard from them since besides a general "how are you all doing?" email.

I think the rehoming practice is pretty standard - it's sad but when people decide they can't deal with an animal any more, they frequently put the animal on Craigslist and then bad things can happen. I also think no liability is fairly standard because they can do their best to make sure the dog is healthy but no one can really be sure and, god forbid, if the animals gets sick, they don't want to be on the hook financially. Assuming that everyone here is operating in good faith, these types of people generally really are looking out for the animals, even if they have a crappy way of showing it.

I like vignettist's language. This is probably bad advice but I might just send the check with a note in the memo line referring to Maggie and a letter and give her the run-around indefinitely if she asked me for the contract. Actually, I probably wouldn't do that but I would like to.
posted by kat518 at 7:47 AM on January 23, 2014

The problem I see with sending in the cheque, but not signing the contract after you know what contractual obligations are, is it could be construed by implication that you agree to the terms set out by the shelter when adopting. This tactic might have worked before you saw the contract, but now? I wouldn't mess with teh crazy unreasoned.

As much as it's going to hurt, I'd take the dog back.
posted by redindiaink at 8:22 AM on January 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you for all for your help. To be clear, returning the dog is not an option.

It was reassuring to see that Best Friends has a similar policy of ultimate guardianship, and that the $7,500 amount is likely just a reference to small claims court and not pulled out of a crazy lady's imagination.

The dog already has two microchips, and unfortunately both are chipped to the rescue org. There is no reason to believe Maggie will ever get lost, but if she does and someone scans her chip, I have zero confidence that the rescue org will contact me... That's now my main sticking point. I would hope that other rescue orgs with this guardianship clause handle this responsibility reliably, but I just don't trust her to. (She's a one-man show.)

My dog trainer says that she is officially surrendered after 6 months. I will send in the check without the contract, wait six months, then contact the chip companies to report myself as the new owner.
posted by samthemander at 8:32 AM on January 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

If a rescue places a dog with you and later finds out that you are fighting it or using it for a bait dog, they need a mechanism for taking back the dog and I suspect that in your jurisdiction, the "guardian" clause is it.

FWIW I live in samthemander's jurisdiction and there was nothing like this in my dog's adoption paperwork from a reputable local nonprofit (not the county pound) shelter.
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 AM on January 23, 2014

Best answer: Get your vet to scan the chip for the ID number, then you can look it up here to find out which company it's registered with and research their procedures for changing the contact info.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:55 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The chip doesn't contain the rescue organization's info; that would make no sense because transferring a dog is a completely normal activity.

It just has an ID that needs to be looked up in some registry somewhere. I'm not sure what that registry is-- last I checked, there are still a number of different chips and standards (which means one might need multiple scanners if one is a vet), and therefore multiple registries. Find out what chips your dog has, find the registries, change and the registration once this is figured out.

Dagnabbit, melissasaurus! :^)
posted by Sunburnt at 8:56 AM on January 23, 2014

I *just* read this article the other day about rescue orgs and how it can be a nightmare to try to adopt from one. You're not a alone.
posted by purple_bird at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sadly, in my search to adopt a dog through rescue, I've come across many ridiculous provisions in adoption contracts. I used to wonder how people could buy puppies when so many are available through rescue orgs, and then I realized it's because many rescue groups are bordering on hoarding-crazy and alienate potential owners through their draconian criteria.

Now, of course I understand they've seen the terrible damage humans can inflict on animals, and they feel the need to protect the ones they've taken in, but being overly strict isn't doing anyone any good-- certainly not the rescue dog/cat who doesn't get adopted because the rescue group is trying to retain too much control over an animal someone else will own and be taking care of.

That said, I would simply kill this person with kindness. Let her know you really need to move forward with the adoption but have some issues with several clauses in the contract and wish to discuss them further. If need be, let her know you spoke with other shelters/rescues about their contracts and express your willingness to sign an amended, more reasonable, contract. If she digs in her heels and still requires you to fill out the application, then you're really out of luck - you either pay her fee and sign it (and abide by it so she never tries to enforce it) or you give the dog back.

Until you've paid the rescues' fee and filled out their contract you do NOT own Maggie - the rescue group does. And to try and go behind her back to change microchip information to establish you as the owner is, for all intents and purposes, you trying to steal the dog and, IMHO will only serve to further enrage this lady. I've a feeling, based on her level of crazy, that police would then become involved and the dog would be confiscated from you.
posted by stubbehtail at 11:11 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

The contract I signed for one of my rescued dogs sounds a lot like yours. I have no idea if this type of contract is actually enforceable. The people at the rescue were very kind and helpful. They have not contacted me since two weeks after the adoption.

I think they put these extreme clauses in to protect the animals. If it's a small rescue with little money, I have to wonder who even writes the contracts.

This is part of what my contract says:

If for any reason this dog should end up in any kind of shelter or in a rescue program, I agree to reimburse RESCUE for expenses incurred on behalf of said dog. If the dog is given away, sold or turned into a shelter by the new owner without the consent of RESCUE the new owner agrees to pay a fine of $2500 to RESCUE for breach of contract.

In your case, I find it odd that they haven't collected your payment. I would just send them the fee without signing the contract though.

If it helps, I think people who volunteer for these organizations are kind hearted towards the animals and want the best for them. When I volunteered for a rescue (just as a dog walker), the woman who ran the organization had seen so many sad cases that she was rather leery of adopters. She had seen many dogs end up getting dumped at shelters instead of returned to the rescue. Others were given to friends of the original adopter who didn't take as good of care of the animals as the original adopter. Sometimes puppies would get adopted out and then returned as untrained adult dogs who were incredibly difficult to place.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:34 AM on January 23, 2014

I will send in the check without the contract, wait six months, then contact the chip companies to report myself as the new owner.

I'd recommend against doing this. You don't own the dog. They've told you the terms for taking the dog. If you don't like them, you don't get to just take it. If you try to do this, they may very well just show up and take the dog from you, and you'll have no standing to stop them. If you're not willing to return the dog, you basically have no ability to negotiate with them, and you're going to have to accept their terms as presented.
posted by empath at 12:35 PM on January 23, 2014

Animals are personal property. You don't decide who gets custody of them like a child, if you are before a judge it's going to be about who owns the animal and who owes who money.

Nutty, but not uncommon. This was linked in a recent Ask by someone else who had trouble dealing with an animal rescue org.
posted by yohko at 1:03 PM on January 23, 2014

"If you try to do this, they may very well just show up and take the dog from you, and you'll have no standing to stop them. "

No, if they've accepted payment for the dog outside of the contract, I would say that's a pretty strong claim to the dog.

I'd also point out that old adage that possession is nine-tenths of the law. The dog is with the foster family now, who are seeking to adopt. If, by cashing a check, the adoption org accepts that transfer, then they've done so without have their terms agreed to in a signed contract. That would make the terms very difficult to enforce, and they would have to go to court to return the money and reclaim the dog, something they're not likely to do.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got my cats from a nutty shelter with nutty contracts. Their vet scanned their chips and gave me the chip numbers, and the company they were registered with. I called that company, who told me what paperwork to fill out, filled out their forms, sent them some money, and now the cats are registered to me. As far as I know the shelter was never contacted -- I highly doubt that if they'd had to officially surrender the cats that they'd've had their act together to do it.

I recommend that you call the chip company now, rather than waiting six months.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:07 PM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

As already mentioned above, if you stop into a vet they can scan the chip or insert a chip if that hasn't been done yet, then you can update the paperwork (most chip companies have a form to do this). I looks like things have changed since did this myself, these seem really strict and cautious now but maybe there's a way around that. A good vet should be able to provide advice.

For this reason I'm also thinking it can't hurt for you to set up an "annual physical exam" or "well-dog" type vet appointment for your dog, which would establish paperwork and a vet relationship that shows you as the primary caregiver for the dog.

Seems like it would make sense to send the check for the $300 you expected to pay, but it seems almost scam-like that they'd have something in the contract about $7,500 which makes it look so dangerous to sign. Totally unusual.
posted by belau at 4:17 PM on January 23, 2014

If, by cashing a check, the adoption org accepts that transfer, then they've done so without have their terms agreed to in a signed contract.

That's assuming they cash the check, instead of just showing up to get the dog.
posted by empath at 7:59 PM on January 23, 2014

Response by poster: We signed the contract, y'all! We're listed as a second contact with the chip companies. We called the chip people and they said normally they just get a voicemail with rescues who are registered first, then immediately call the second contact. Win-win!
posted by samthemander at 9:03 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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