Q: Can my mother press charges for me taking my dog?
My parents bought the dog for me and the dog has lived with me at college. She is very attached to me and I have been the primary caretaker of the dog. I even have ESA paperwork filed at my college for the dog. The problem is that all of the dogs paperwork is in my mothers name. I am recently married and am wanting to take the dog with me when I move out with my husband. She does not want me to. Could she successfully press charges against me for taking the dog?
A: Probably not.
Generally speaking, Virginia law treats animals as property, making theft of animals in Virginia a crime. Va. Code 18.2-97 defines this as larceny and a felony.
In order for anyone to be prosecuted for this, a complaining witness must first establish that the animal in question was, in fact, theirs to begin with. In this situation, it sounds like you may have been living with your parents for some time with your dog in the same home. On one hand, your parents purchased the dog and have paperwork in their name. On the other, it seems the dog was meant for you, and you have ESA paperwork filed with your school.
It seems likely that, should your mother file a complaint, a responding officer would consider this a domestic issue rather than a criminal one.
However, if you are concerned, as an added measure you can make sure you have the proper documentation in order for the dog. For example, when you move, make sure the municipal pet license for the dog is in your name.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.