Q: Is it okay for me to legally keep a found dog in my home?
Hello. I found a dog left in the park two days ago. I submitted a found dog form on PetHarbor.com. She had no collar, no tag, and has no chip according to the vet tech. Is it legally okay for me to keep her in my home until she is claimed/not claimed? I posted on Pawboost, PetHarbor, Nextdoor, and more. I
will be putting up fliers everywhere tomorrow.
A: You are entitled to a reasonable charge for saving and taking care of the animal. This would likely include a reasonable daily kenneling fee and reimbursement of your veterinary expenses. If that is offered, you would have no basis to retain the dog, but if you allege neglect, it should then be turned over to Animal Control.
Civil Code § 2080. Duties of finder
“Any person who finds a thing lost is not bound to take charge of it. . .but when the person does take charge of it he or she is thenceforward a depositary for the owner, with the rights and obligations of a depositary for hire. Any person that. . .saves any domestic animal from harm, neglect, drowning, or starvation, shall, within a reasonable time, inform the owner, if known, and make restitution without compensation, except a reasonable charge for saving and taking care of the property. Any person who takes possession of a live domestic animal shall provide for humane treatment of the animal.”
If you are not offered the reasonable daily kenneling fee and veterinary fees, I would argue that you have a lien on the dog and that, to protect your lien, you are entitled to retain possession.
However, Civil Code section 2080.1 may require you to surrender the dog to the police (Animal Control). That section provides:
“(a) If the owner is unknown or has not claimed the property, the person saving or finding the property shall, if the property is of the value of one hundred dollars ($100) or more, within a reasonable time turn the property over to the police department of the city or city and county, if found therein, or to the sheriff’s department of the county if found outside of city limits, and shall make an affidavit, stating when and where he or she found or saved the property, particularly describing it. If the property was saved, the affidavit shall state:
(1) From what and how it was saved.
(2) Whether the owner of the property is known to the affiant.
(3) That the affiant has not secreted, withheld, or disposed of any part of the property.
(b) The police department or the sheriff’s department shall notify the owner, if his or her identity is reasonably ascertainable, that it possesses the property and where it may be claimed. The police department or sheriff’s department may require payment by the owner of a reasonable charge to defray costs of storage and care of the property.”
I would argue that 2080.1, and the following statutes, requiring surrender of found property to the police department, do not apply to animals because the procedures outlined therein, concerning time limits and auctions, clearly are inapplicable to the manner in which Animal Control disposes of strays.
I would argue that your lien, entitling you to possession until paid, arises from Civil Code section 3051, which provides:
“Every person who, while lawfully in possession of an article of personal property, renders any service to the owner thereof, by labor or skill, employed for the protection, improvement, safekeeping, or carriage thereof, has a special lien thereon, dependent on possession, for the compensation, if any,
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