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What can I do to get my stolen dog back?

Indianapolis, IN |
Filed under: Animal law

My dog got loose and was snatched by one of my neighbors. I called the police at the time of the abduction and the only advice that the officer could give me is to take him to civil court. My questions are as follows: 1. What steps should I take to be prepared for the court case? Do I need to gather evidence that she has been residing at my house for the past several months? Is this a civil matter or a criminal matter? Is there someone with whom I could talk to about building a case? Thanks! Matt P.

Attorney Answers 3


Your dog was not "abducted" - you allowed the dog to run loose and you could have a claim filed against you with animal control and/or the police for allowing your dog to run loose. In addition, unless you can prove who has the dog and how they got the dog (and I mean legal proof), you are going to have a very tough time proving a case. Is your dog microchipped, licensed in your name, have vet records, adoption/sales receipts? If you decide to proceed, it would be a civil matter, likely in small claims court.

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

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What makes you think that your dog was stolen? Did they refuse to give you your dog back after you came to retrieve it? They weren't just holding it temporarily to prevent it from getting run over? If you can provide proof that they took your dog and did not give it back, then you may have a case for either small claims court or civil court. Small claims may prohibit specific performance relief (in other words, that they had to do a certain thing, here give you your dog back) so you might have to file in regular civil court, even though the actual monetary value of your dog on the open market may be less than the minimum requirements for monetary compensation in civil court. It is best to check with the clerk of court in your jurisdiction and figure out the best place to file. Good luck!

This post should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.<br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Joan M. Bundy, Attorney at Law, Casa Grande, Arizona</a>&nbsp;|&nbsp;

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It sounds to me as though you need to consult an attorney in IN who is familiar with the criminal or animal laws in your state. I practice animal law in Washington State. In Washington, it is a gross misdemeanor to steal someone's pet. Even so, the police will often be hesitant to get involved and will refer people to the civil courts. Sometimes the police (or sheriff's department) need to be informed of the criminal law and then will take action against the person holding the pet.

If the authorities will not get involved, there are civil methods to pursue for getting your pet returned. This will require proof of ownership and the filing of an action against the individual holding your pet.

This is not to be construed as legal advice. I do not have an attorney client relationship with you.

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