Asked in Animal / Dog Law for California

Q: My gf and I adopted 2 dogs registered to her. She left over a month ago. Now says she's coming to get them. Can she?

She did nothing but complain about them. She never wanted them I did. I have been the sole provider for them, also she moved to an apartment with no yard.

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

A: The fact that her apartment has no yard is completely irrelevant to whether she owns the dogs. The fact that you can provide a better home is completely irrelevant to whether she owns the dogs.

With respect to ownership, your post is unclear. You say that the two of you adopted the dogs, but she registered them. If the two of you adopted the dogs, then both of your names should be on the adoption paperwork. If that isn't the case, then it's likely that only one of you adopted the dogs.

If she "registered" the dogs, with whom? AKC, or are your referring to licensing? Even licensing in her name doesn't necessarily establish sole ownership.

It's unclear what you want to accomplish. Dual ownership? Sole ownership? As to whether she can just take dogs from your home, not without your consent. Otherwise, it's breaking and entering. She can call the police and report you for theft. It is unlikely that the police will intervene in a private dispute.

If you want joint ownership, and she agrees, the two of you will have to agree upon a schedule of custody. Where there is joint ownership of property, and one party deprives the other of the benefits of ownership, the deprived party can sue for the reasonable daily rental value of the withheld property.

If you want to establish sole ownership, that will depend on the circumstances in which she left the dogs behind. Did you agree to care for them for her? Did she say she was coming back to get them? Were they abandoned? Did she agree to compensate you for their care? Has she paid or offered to pay? You may have a lien on the dogs until you have been paid a daily kennel rate, even if the dogs are her sole property.

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