Elkridge, MD asked in Animal / Dog Law for Maryland

Q: My sister has an alcohol addiction and while in 2 week in-patient treatment I began caring for her dog. That was 1.5 yrs

ago and she has not once physically come to get her dog and now is threatening to send sheriff take me to court. Is this a civil matter since no criminal theft occured no police report? Can I defend that Im now primary caregiver and property abandonment? She does have original adoption papers for dog. Important to note there is discoverable incident where she was picked up by police, taken to required 2 week inpatient psychiatric care and she herself called BARCS to report she had abandoned her dog and cat. She is not stable - tried, agreed to joint living arrangement but after 1 meet up she canceled next scheduled meet, went on bender and then launched threatening, abusive email assult (also discoverable evidence) and days later acts like it never happened and I should just ignore her behavior and bring her the dog. If I get protective order against her will that help my case? I will defend keeping the dog he deserves his best life away from her instability and trauma.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The only legal defense you have to keep the dog based on your description is if you convince the court she abandoned the dog, or intended to give the dog to you. Get the proof from whomever she told that she had abandoned the dog. That’s an admission against interest. You also have a counter-claim against her if you lose the abandonment allegation for all the costs you have incurred feeding the dog, buying necessary items like leashes and collars, and vet bills. This would be a civil, not a criminal case. It would be up to her to file a civil complaint for replevin (the legal term for recovery of property). You might also contact the place she adopted the dog from, as adoption agreements often have restrictions on transfer of the dog to someone else—they might declare the adoption agreement breached and could re-adopt the dog to you.

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