Asked in Animal / Dog Law for Texas

Q: Can I press charges for someone giving away my dogs?

My girlfriend's mother and other family members continuously let my dogs out in the streets to get rid of them. And every time we find them and bring them back she talks a lot of mess. Yesterday my girlfriend came home and claimed the dogs weren't in the backyard and that there was no holes anywhere for the dogs to get out anywhere. Anything will help, thank you.

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1 Lawyer Answer
David Barranco
David Barranco
  • Alamo Heights, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: You might file a civil claim against your relatives in small claims court or, potentially, go down to the police station and swear out a criminal complaint for theft or animal cruelty. In either case, you appear to have what we lawyers call a “proof problem.” I fear local police will not take your complaint seriously because, from the way you asked your question, it does not sound as though you possess actual, physical evidence that a specific person or persons stole, mistreated, or harmed your pets. I agree that the circumstances are VERY suspicious. I would not be surprised if your suspicions prove valid. Nevertheless, absent supporting evidence that a specific person (or persons) committed a criminal act, your complaint may well be ignored by the police – who very often assert that they have “more important” crimes to investigate. Perhaps they do.

Your odds of success might be superior in small claims court, also called JP or justice court. There, you need only prove the claim that a defendant gave away or harmed your animals by a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. Still, even in JP court, to prevail you’ll need actual evidence that a specific person committed a civil tort. Historically, even if you succeed, the damages awarded in such cases are shamefully small – although the recent trend is positive. Regardless of what ensues, I’m very sorry to hear about your missing pets. I am a dog lover myself. I suspect the most sensible long-term solution is to move away from your girlfriend's cynophobic kin or, if these relatives reside within your domicile, insist they move out. Good luck and God bless!!

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