San Marcos, TX asked in Adoption and Animal / Dog Law for California

Q: Dog was adopted even though the shelter told me they would hold her for when I got back in 4 days

I was leaving out of town with my kids & dog but she ran off & I tried looking for her. Someone found her and took her to the shelter. The shelter called her Vet in FL (because of her collar and we used to live there), who then called me. I contacted the shelter asap and they told me the holding redemption policy was 2 days. At the time I called, there was less than a day left and they still had her. I told them I'll be back in 4, and they said they'll hold her for me. I got back and she was adopted and they told me it was a legal adoption. I thought the holding was 72 hrs for owners. How can I get her back and on what grounds can I sue?

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1 Lawyer Answer
William John Light
William John Light
  • Animal & Dog Law Lawyer
  • Riverside, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: A: Animal Control is required to allow 72 hours for owner redemption. After that, Animal Control is required to keep the dog impounded up to six business days. After 72 hours, the dog can be made available for adoption. Food & Agriculture Code section 31108 states, in pertinent part: "(a) The required holding period for a stray dog impounded pursuant to this division shall be six business days, not including the day of impoundment, except as follows: (1) If the public or private shelter has made the dog available for owner redemption on one weekday evening until at least 7 p.m. or one weekend day, the holding period shall be four business days, not including the day of impoundment. (2) If the public or private shelter has fewer than three full-time employees or is not open during all regular weekday business hours, and if it has established a procedure to enable owners to reclaim their dogs by appointment at a mutually agreeable time when the public or private shelter would otherwise be closed, the holding period shall be four business days, not including the day of impoundment. Except as provided in Section 17006, stray dogs shall be held for owner redemption during the first three days of the holding period, not including the day of impoundment, and shall be available for owner redemption or adoption for the remainder of the holding period."

Since you are past the 72 hour period, ordinarily, you would have no claim. However, since the Shelter told you it would hold the dog, and you relied on that promise, you may have a claim for promissory estoppel (lawyer talk for turning a a non-binding promise into a binding contract when there has been detrimental reliance on the promise). If that promise had not been made, you could have arranged to have someone claim your dog within the 72 hour time frame. However, you waited, based on the promise, and lost your dog. If successful, tour damages are the fair market value of a similar breed, gender, age, qualify dog. This is a Small Claims case.

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