Adopt lost dog?
December 12, 2007 9:08 AM   Subscribe

How do you adopt a lost dog the original owner does not want?

A friend of my neighbor found a lost dog. The friend was unable to keep the dog, so they passed the dog to my neighbor who has a fence and the proper space while they looked for the owner. The friend found the owner who lives close by, and explained to the owner by phone they had her dog, it was well cared for, was being kept in a safe, fenced-in environment, etc.

Rather than immediately wanting to claim her dog, the owner complained the dog was constantly escaping, and said that they (my neighbor) "should just keep the dog".

My neighbor would be happy to keep the dog. But he wanted to talk to this owner directly rather than through the friend who originally found the dog, to make sure that was what the owner really wants to do. However, it's been 5 days and the owner hasn't returned any of his phone calls, despite him leaving messages, leaving two contact phone numbers, etc.

The dog is great and appears in good health. It had no collar or chip so they have no idea if it is even licensed with the city. My neighbor is afraid the (unreachable) owner could turn up at a later time wanting to reclaim the dog, demanding unreasonable payment for the dog, etc. I suggested that he turn the dog in to the city while telling them he wants to adopt the dog after the mandatory 5-day waiting period for owners to claim their pets. He's concerned that something bad could happen to the dog if it is taken by the city and considered abandoned.

I've tried to read up on local city laws about this, but I cannot find specifics on this situation. So far my call to animal services has not been returned.

Can anyone offer any advice on this?
posted by jca to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
You need to take the dog into the local shelter/ASPCA. Explain the situation to them. They'll do their check-in, check-up process, contact the original owner, and put you first in line to adopt little Trixie, if that is your wish. They are more than happy to have prospective adopters for animals that come in. Then, fees paid and interviews or home inspections or what-have-you complete, your ownership rights will be secure. This is generally how it works, but of course ymmv respective to location.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:35 AM on December 12, 2007

In Seattle you have to notify the shelter that you found the lost dog. They'll put up a flier. After 30 days, if no one claims the dog, it is yours.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:19 AM on December 12, 2007

just keep it. I've never heard of anyone taking a dog from someone for not having proper adoption papers.
posted by shmegegge at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2007

Just tell him to keep it, stop worrying, stop trying to contact anyone about it.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2007

shmegegge, guess you didn't hear anything about this?
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:53 AM on December 12, 2007

I wouldn't release the dog to the local shelter. Records get mixed up all the time and Fido might end up put down or adopted by someone else, and the shelter will probably require your friend to jump through any number of hoops to adopt the dog while charging him a fee for the privilege. Even if the process goes smoothly, the shelter kenneling experience is not very rewarding for the dog. If he want to go that route, ask if the shelter lets him keep the dog in his possession through the entire process.

Take the dog to a vet, have him speutered, chipped, and buy him a county/city license tag. The last two satisfy most ownership claims.

Regarding the Ellen thing: that dog was never "owned" by Ellen. Rescue orgs usually retain the ownership of the animals which come through their system even post-adoption. They prove this ownership via signed contracts with the adopting person and by not changing the name on the microchip registration. IIRC, in Ellen's case, she didn't sign a contract and the rescue agency proved ownership via the microchip registration.
posted by jamaro at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2007

It seems like the best thing for the dog is for your neighbor to just keep it. There's no need to use up the ASPCA's resources and time or to subject the dog to the trauma of the shelter etc. Trust the friend (unless there's some compelling reason not to) and what s/he said about the owner's response and do what Jamaro said (chip, license etc) and leave it at that -- everybody wins!
posted by nnk at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2007

Have done this very thing, and didn't really worry about the civic component of this. However, have your friend document the telphone calls, and maybe drop a letter/flyer on the bad guy's door step. That will take care of most of the legal requirements.

Ditto the vet thing though. Spaying/nuetering will take care of most running away habits, as will a house with a little tenderness, care, food, protection and sufficient exercise. If the dog is running away from the well fenced yard, then I tend to blame the exercise program. That's what took the edge of our second.

For me, it comes down to ethics and I think the dog is better off with a new owner. Only if your neighbour REALLY wants the dog though.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 11:34 AM on December 12, 2007

I had not heard the Iggy story before. I rescind my suggestion. apologies for the bad answer.
posted by shmegegge at 11:54 AM on December 12, 2007

In this case, looks like the owner could care less if they get the dog back. Regardless of what the friend told your neighbor, the fact that they're not returning calls says it all. Tell him to make sure he documents this all with precise dates and times just in case the former owner tries anything.

If your neighbor is sincerely wants to keep the dog, he should take him to the vet to get checked up , vaccinated, neutered and micro-chipped. Make sure the registration points back to you and not the vets office (I've heard of this being done before). Once all this is done, get certificates from the vet stating that the dog is neutered and vaccinated and go get the dog licensed. Where I'm from, they charge a much lower fee for the license if the dog is spayed/neutered, so he should look into that.

After that, all he has to do is feed the dog, love him, and give him all he needs. Kudos to your neighbor for taking this pup. :-)
posted by arishaun at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2007

ISTM that if you go the informal/no legal nicities route you wouldn't want to spay/neuter the dog, because if you do and THEN they claim the dog back they could claim damages. Or even claim the dog back at that point TO claim damages if they found out. IANAL.
posted by Jahaza at 4:30 PM on December 12, 2007

Get the previous owner to sign the dog over to you (or whoever). Personally I would never allow myself to fall in love with a dog knowing the previous owner could come and claim him at any time. They would have a winning chance if they decided they wanted him back and took it to court. Just write up a simple document and get it signed, and like others said, keep records of everything. People can be so cruel these days.
posted by Sufi at 9:13 PM on December 12, 2007

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