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My dog escaped from my backyard. Few days later I found him in Animal shelter and went to retrieve him. They asked me for $700..

Santa Clara, CA |

I am disabled and don't have that kind of money. I asked for payment plan-they refused and told me that they will put him to sleep or place for adoption. Shelter is Joint Authority founded by 4 cities and city officials are on board of directors.
The way I see it:
1. Charged me for services that I did not authorize.
2. Acting in bad faith.
3. Asking for ransom.
4. Took possession of my property with intent to destroy it, or give it away, without court order which is violation of Constitutional rights, Amendments IV, V and XIV. (I have their admission in writing.)
5. Intentionally damaging my property.
6. Animal mutilation and exposing animal to needles suffering. (CA Penal Code 597)
7. Intentional and/or reckless infliction of emotional distress.

How to proceed?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

If your dog was off your property, then animal control has the authority to impound your animal. They have a duty to contact you if your dog is tagged or chipped and they obtain that information. They are allowed to charge your for medical / boarding / fees for the time that they have custody of your dog. You have said "a few days" so $700 sounds very high. Here is a link to L.A. County Impound fees. http://file.lacounty.gov/dacc/cms1_135951.pdf

Unfortunately, the legal theories you listed above do not apply here because as a dog owner, you have a duty to comply with the ordinances applicable to dog ownership. When your dog escaped and was "at large" in the community, public safety becomes and issue and animal control can impound your dog as a result. If your dog was not licensed and had not received updated rabies and other vaccines, animal control would have given your dog the necessary vaccines to make it safe for your dog to be boarded with other dogs.

You will need to raise the money for your dog to be returned. I suggest asking friends and family to chip in. Unfortunately, the impound fees will increase with every day your dog is at the shelter.

This post and any other internet postings are for informational purposes only. Internet postings are not legal advice. No comments, answers, or other postings should be taken as legal advice. Internet postings do not create an attorney-client relationship. Receipt or viewing of content of an internet posting does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. There is no representation, warranty or guarantee that postings or comments are accurate. Please feel free to give us a call at the office if you would like a formal case evaluation. Best of luck with your case. Talitha.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks for the time you took to give a comprehensive answer. However, my problem is not that they initially impounded the dog. I understand that they had right to do so. My problem begins after I went to the shelter to retrieve the dog, was acknowledged as dog's owner, but did not have money to pay for their fees. They refused to come up with payment plan (as opposed to this particular CITY animal shelter, county animal shelter has provision for payment plan). They did not call me to inform me that dog was with them, and demanded $700, or they will keep the dog. They told me that they will either put him to sleep or put him for adoption if I do not pay immediately. They kept him for additional 10 days and in that time period they neutered him without my approval. The way I see it, they did not have right, or court order to keep my property after I was identified as dog's owner. I was able to get my dog back after I contacted some local politicians, but by that time damage was already done.

Talitha Davies Wegner

Talitha Davies Wegner

Posted

I am glad your local politicians helped. Unfortunately, even after animal control knew the dog was yours, they still had a right to detain your dog until you paid the fees. It is sad that they did not use a little discretion under the circumstances (your disability). Regarding the neuter, animal control is fighting a tide of unwanted dogs - and have to put hundreds of perfectly healthy good dogs to sleep every day. If you are not a breeder, it is best your animal is neutered as it avoids behavioral and health issues later. If you are a breeder, then you should have had no problem paying the fine.

Asker

Posted

Thanks for your quick responses! So far they were not able to provide me with the law that allows them to take possession of my property. If they had issue with payment, they should have taken me to court to enforce payment. They can not take law and execution into their own hands. Constitution guarantees that. Have a wonderful Sunday evening. :)

Talitha Davies Wegner

Talitha Davies Wegner

Posted

Here is the CA authority under which AD had the right to impound your dog. You mentioned your dog escaped - which means it was off your property and off leash - "at large". Food and Agricultural Code (Formerly Agricultural Code). Division 14. Regulation and Licensing of Dogs. Chapter 5. Killing and Seizure. Article 1. Generally. § 31101. Seizure and impounding. Any dog which is found running at large without the identification tag or dog license tag which is required pursuant to Section 30951 may be seized and impounded by any peace officer.

Asker

Posted

That is great info. Thanks! What I found is this: Code 31108: (c) During the holding period required by this section and prior to the adoption or euthanasia of a dog impounded pursuant to this division, a public or private shelter shall scan the dog for a microchip that identifies the owner of that dog and shall make reasonable efforts to contact the owner and notify him or her that his or her dog is impounded and is available for redemption. - THEY DID NOT INFORM ME. Code 31254. The refusal or failure of the owner of any such dog to pay the fee and charges after due notification shall be held to be an abandonment of the dog by the owner. - THIS IS WHERE CONSTITUTION AND THIS LAW COLLIDE. AMENDMENT IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. AMENDMENT V No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. Current prevailing definition of "public use" is "public purpose or benefit." [Thomas W. Merrill, The Goods, the Bads, and the Ugly, Legal Affairs, Feb 2005, at 16.] The whole Food and Agricultural code is geared towards "public benefit", therefore they fit the bill of "public use". See, I did not abandon my dog, nor refuse to pay. I was not able to pay their asking fee in one lump sum. My inability to pay was caused by the fact that I live on welfare ($516 per month and food stamps). Code 31254 is violating constitutional rights of the whole class of people with limited income and disability. I thank you for this exchange of opinions. I learned a lot! Good night to you! :)

Posted

Unfortunately, none of the legal theories you mention above are applicable to your situation. They can do this since your animal was out. You can try putting pressure on the city officials--they are elected, and you can exercise your right to protest peacefully on the sidewalk outside city hall and the shelter--try to get local news media involved. The shelter and city officials will probably not want publicity about how they're refusing a payment plan for a disabled person who wants their animal back.

We do not have an attorney-client relationship. I am not your lawyer. The statements I have made do not constitute legal advice. Any statements I have made are based upon the very limited facts you have presented, and under the premise that you will consult with a local attorney. This is not an attempt to solicit business. This disclaimer is in addition to any disclaimers that this website has made. I am only licensed in California.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks for the answer. I did what you suggested and through some local politicians I got my dog back, but not before he was castrated. I do not dispute their legal right to take in my dog while he was deemed "stray". Problem arises when I was identified as his owner, dog didn't cause any damage that I needed to pay for, and they still kept him for 10 more days. After I was recognized as his owner, in that time period they neutered him (without my permission) and dog lost 10% of his body weight the last week of stay with them (vet report that I got at his release confirms that).

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

I'm so happy you got him back. Put pressure on the politicians to make changes at this agency because your dog lost so much weight--I really think an investigation is in order.

Asker

Posted

Thanks Golnar! I did try to put pressure, but they are ignoring me. As I mentioned above, local politicians are on the Board of Directors at the shelter and they are responsible for their policies. It looks like that without court order they will continue to "take justice into their own hands" and, quite frankly, keep oppressing people without means to pay for their "services".

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

What a bunch of goons and bullies. I'd organize against them.

Posted

Unfortunately, this is one of the ways that they can afford to run their fancy buildings and staff. It is much cheaper to keep fences repaired and gates functioning than to retrieve your dog from the "shelter". Best of luck to you.

I am an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of California. Unless we have both signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not my client, and my discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.

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Posted

Carefully inspect both local and state laws/ordinances. It is *possible* that an existing law or rule defines what they can (or can't) charge for.

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Asker

Posted

Thanks Peter!. I checked the rules and there were some charges that were justified, but $300 for some medical charges were not. I never refused to pay for those fees, but I was not able to come up with lump sum payment in short period of time as they demanded.

Peter Eric Gollub

Peter Eric Gollub

Posted

I will not opine or give you advice on CA law. However, I will offer an observation based on your most recent post. If, and to the extent you have determined payment is appropriate, it sounds like your challenge is financing payment. You want them to finance the payment and they refuse. So why don't you try to borrow the money from friends or family? You might not want to borrow from friends, etc., but what's your primary objective right now - fighting with officials or getting your dog back?

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