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Do I need to give back or share a dog that was a gift from my ex-girlfriend?

San Diego, CA |
Filed under: Animal law Evidence

For Christmas last year, my ex-girlfriend gave me a dog and nothing else. Of course I got her something, multiple gifts actually and I only got the dog for Christmas from her. I didn't ask for any of that merchandise back. When we were together we took turns taking care of the dog switching homes but technically it was mine. We broke up a few months ago and now she threatens me to take her back with the papers she bought the dog with, or "spend time" and share the dog. Honestly I just do't want to deal with her anymore and don't want my dog to keep us in each others lives. Plus I do't want to risk her stealing away my dog. She left me yet we're still connected because she wants time with the dog. Do I even have an option? Like I said my dog was a gift but now she claims it was both of ours

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Attorney answers 3


Give her the dog, if you like, go to the pound and adopt another dog that otherwise would be "put to sleep", and get on with life. Do not treat this like a "real" legal question.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

Molly Cristin Hansen

Molly Cristin Hansen


If you do not have a strong attachment to the dog, and believe that your girlfriend will take good care of it, I whole-heartedly agree with Attorney Doland. Give the dog to her, save the life of another dog in need, and move on!


If you can prove that the dog was a gift to you, I don't think your girlfriend has any further rights, and it sounds like it would be prudent to make a clean break with her. It may require an attorney letter to get your ex- to take the matter seriously and leave your alone, but if you have evidence to support that the dog is in fact yours, an attorney should be able to put together an appropriate, powerful letter in a relatively short amount of time.

That being said, unless you have a gift card or another writing that establishes she gave the dog to you, or have one or more unbiased witnesses who will say she clearly gave the dog to you, she could take the position that she bought the dog for both of you and continue to fight with you in this matter -- which could become draining in terms of time, money and emotions.

To help you in this matter, I would suggest that you put together a list of facts that could help to establish that the dog is yours (e.g., a dog license in your name, a veterinary account in your name, bills paid for the upkeep of the dog using your funds, etc.) as well as a list of facts that would suggest the dog was both of yours or even hers (the document transferring title of the dog to her when she bought it, any amounts paid for the upkeep of the dog by her after she gave the dog to you, etc.), and then consult with an Animal Law attorney in your area (if you can find one).

If you are not able to an Animal Attorney in your local area, you might want to take advantage of the free 10-minute consultations offered by the attorneys @ Canine Custody (second link below). Attorney DuPar is licensed to practice law in California, and can likely provide you will helpful advice.

Also, although some of the links on the site are no longer operational, I have also included a list of laws that are generally applicable to all dogs (not just dachshunds!) in San Diego County (see the first link for further details). As a dog owner, you should be aware of the many laws that apply to dogs and their owners.

All the best to you and your pooch!

Any answer or other information posted above is general in nature and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the posting attorney, and you are urged to engage a qualified attorney who is licensed to practice in the relevant jurisdiction.

Michael Charles Doland

Michael Charles Doland


Not only a good answer, a great answer. I have learned something about Canine Custody. I never knew such a thing existed.


The dog was a gift, the dog is yours, and you do not have to share the dog.

This is not legal advice but practical: tell her if she wants the dog she is going to have to sue you and you will counter-sue her for half of all your expenses in caring for the dog, including a daily boarding fee, and then STOP communicating with her. Seriously - just stop.

If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.

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