Martinez, CA asked in Animal / Dog Law for California

Q: I found a dog running around in my neighborhood with a chip May 2019.

I took the dog to the vet to be scanned and there as a chip. I generated a found dog alert. I posted on Pet Harbor, Finding Fido, notified local animal shelter, posted on Several FB groups, and also next door . Called animal shelter several times to see if anyone lost dog. Searched lost dog on pet harbor. 3 months after finding her I got shots and microchipped her. 11 months later the owner is calling me saying I have their dog? I personally feel the dog was dumped in my neighborhood. They did not respond to the found dog alert for the chip, nor did they check the animal shelter for their dog. Seems very strange to me. Can they legally force me to give the dog back?

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

A: Yes, they can. Despite all of the things you did, you did not do what the law requires.

Under Civil Code § 2080, when you take possession of a lost thing, you are a “. . .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.”

Under Civil Code § 2080.1(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. . . ."

Here, you had a duty to surrender the dog was to Animal Control after a reasonable period. Keeping it and caring for it does not give you ownership rights.

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