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Frequently Asked Questions (From Calls Each Week)
Below is a list of my most Frequently Asked Questions and Responses.

Disclaimer:  The information available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact another attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem you may have. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between The Animal Law Office, Christine Garcia, and the user or browser. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of The Animal Law Office or any individual attorney at all.

#1    Help!  Animal Care and Control just took my dog and they say they are going to kill her!  I want her back, she didn't do anything. What should I do!?!

Most every city or county gives you an opportunity to oppose and dispute a taking and killing of your canine companion.  If Animal Control has taken your pet, immediately contact the Animal Services and tell them that you want a hearing.  A written request should be hand delivered, faxed and/or e-mailed to Animal Services immediately. In the written request, tell them that:

  • You oppose the holding and killing of your dog
  • You hereby request the prompt return of your dog
  • If they do not promptly return your dog, you want a hearing to contest the holding and euthanasia of your dog

Telephone the Animal Services to ensure that they received your Notice.  Record each person’s name that you speak to.

#2  My Vet killed my cat when all I wanted was her nails clipped!  Is there anything I can do?


Many states have a local state agency that conducts some checks over your vet’s actions.  If you live in California, you can fill out this form and turn it into the State of California for review of what occurred to your animal.  The link to the veterinary complaint form for California is http://www.vmb.ca.gov/forms_pubs/vet_complaint.pdf or you can click here:  Vet Complaint Form

 There are also options of proceeding through the Courts, either Small Claims (where you don’t need an attorney and the cap currently [2009] is $7500, so going to a Civil Limited or Unlimited jurisdiction).  You can find Small Claims forms off the California Court website. There is also helpful information on-line about filing in Court or about small claims suits in particular. Ask your attorney if you are a candidate for these options.

Also, if this just happened, and you are thinking about bringing a lawsuit against your vet for vet malpractice, a necropsy will be helpful to substantiate the cause of death of your animal. Do not get a necropsy from the same vet who did the wrongful thing to your animal because that would be a conflict of interest.

#3  Do we have to hand our dog over to the police when they threaten us?

No. Because the government perceives animals as property, the rights associated with fourth amendment searches and seizures also apply to animals. The case of Fuller v. Vines is the 9th Circuit case which acknowledged the fourth amendment application to animal companions.  See, Fuller v. Vines, 36 F.3d @ 68, citing, Soldal v. Cook County, 506 U.S. 56, ----, 113 S.Ct. 538, 546, (1992); and, see, United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 1656 (1984); Bonds v. Cox, 20 F.3d 697, 701-02 (6th Cir.1994); Lesher v. Reed, 12 F.3d 148, 150 (8th Cir.1994); The case noted that a "'seizure' of property occurs, within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, when 'there is some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interests in that property.'" Therefore, the Court reasoned, the destruction of property is a "meaningful interference" constituting a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. In that case, of a wrongful shooting of a companion animal, the complaint alleged that the officers' killing of their dog constituted a Fourth Amendment seizure. The 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that a dog is an "effect" or "property" which can be seized. There are now analogous cases in almost every circuit of this country so more likely than not, your state will have a similar decision.
I believe that individuals should assert their fourth amendment constitutional right when an officer comes knocking at their door. There is no reason why an animal guardian shouldn't demand to see a Court Order or a warrant before allowing an improper seizure of their animal family companion. Nonetheless, many family members waive their custodial and constitutional rights and hand their companion animals over to law enforcement or animal care and control. It is important for people to demand a probable cause hearing prior to this detention of the companion animal. If the government is allowed to take your dog without protest, this results in a legal battle for custody rights with the government entity which can take anywhere from a few days to over a year while the dog waits impounded.

#4  I went to the administrative dangerous dog hearing and the hearing agent ruled against me. They still want to kill my dog. What can I do?

If you live in California, you may appeal via a 1) Trial de Novo with your Superior Court, or 2) a Writ of Mandate proceeding. Check your local county and/or city ordinance and seek local counsel to see what laws apply. If the County or City that decided your dog was dangerous abides by the State method of appeal, then you only have five (5) days from the date you were given notice of that decision to appeal with the Superior Court. The appellate form for California can be found at (www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/mc603.pdf) , which you file with $30 or with a fee waiver form. Learn more about the trial de novo process by researching the procedures specified in the CA Food and Agricultural Code section 31622. If your City or County that made the decision against your dog abides by a Writ Procedure, then it's more complicated since you need to file a Petition for a Writ of Mandate in the Superior Court in accordance with the provisions of theCode of Civil Procedure section 1094.5 et seq. Read your local laws and seek local counsel to see if you need to file a Stay of Execution in the meantime to keep your dog from being euthanized.

#5  I don't have much money. Do you take pro bono cases?

I do take pro bono cases when I can, however, I request that the client adopt a vegan lifestyle during the term of our relationship in exchange for my pro bono work. Although most of my cases involve domestic companion animals, the #1 most exploited animal and #1 most exploited land individuals in the world are factory farmed animals used for food consumption. I encourage you to learn about factory farming and how you can help decrease the suffering of animals by seeing my Other Suggested Websites page.

#6  These people abused their dog then abondoned him with no food or shelter for 6 months. I took the dog in, invested $3,000 in vet bills, licensed the dog and now they say they want their dog back. What do I do?

First off, it's important to know that you should always report animal cruelty. So you should have immediately reported animal neglect and abandonment when you first notice it. Tell the police or sheriff you want to report several crimes. Here is a listing of the CA violations:

CA Penal Code §§ 597(b), 597f (a), 597s (a) and 597.1(a)  

CA PC § 597(b) (E)very person who …deprives of necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter, … or causes or procures any animal to be so … deprived of necessary sustenance, drink, shelter…and whoever, having the charge or custody of any animal, either as owner or otherwise, subjects any animal to needless suffering, … or fails to provide the animal with proper food, drink, or shelter or protection from the weather, … is, for every such offense, guilty of a crime punishable as a misdemeanor or as a felony or alternatively punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony and by a fine of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).  

CA PC § 597f.  (a) Every owner, driver, or possessor of any animal, who permits the animal to be in any building, enclosure, lane, street, square, or lot, of any city, city and county, or judicial district, without proper care and attention, shall, on conviction, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. 

CA PC § 597s.  (a) Every person who willfully abandons any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor. 

CA PC § 597.1.  (a) Every owner, driver, or keeper of any animal who permits the animal to be in any building, enclosure, lane, street, square, or lot of any city, county, city and county, or judicial district without proper care and attention is guilty of a misdemeanor.

You have an interest in the dog and the CA Penal Code section 597.1 (h) describes abandonment after the owner does not act after 14 days. You should never ever hand a dog back over to negligent and absive individuals.

In California, when people cannot be found to Serve a Summons, notification of a lawsuit can be given by publication.  See, CCP section 415.50.

If you choose to post notice in the paper about a lost dog, please be careful not to describe the dog fully and to leave out any unique identifying marks from the description because there are numerous people who read the paper to take animals to be used unlawfully as bate. So please be careful when you put information about an animal into the public sphere.