Missing Dogs and the Law Regarding Ownership

Who does the law now regard to be the legal owner of the dog?

A dog may be a domestic animal but when it comes to the question of ownership the law treats a dog in the same way as it treats any moveable property or possessions (commonly referred to as “chattels”). Ownership of chattels, or the dog in this instance, is said to be “absolute”.

Where a person owns something “absolutely” they own it unconditionally and are free to treat, use or dispose of it as they wish. Obviously in the case of a dog this is subject to certain legislation, for example, relating to the welfare of animals.

Where a dog has strayed and found a new home, as the person who lost the dog owned the dog “absolutely”, he retains his ownership of the dog.

Does the person who has re-housed the dog have any rights?

The fact that the person who re-housed the dog has looked after and fed the dog does not give them any right to hold onto the dog. However, they are entitled to make a claim for their reasonable costs associated with keeping and feeding the dog but where they do make such a claim they have no right to retain the dog pending payment.

What if the person who re-housed the dog refuses to give me my dog back?

If the person who re-housed the dog refuses to give the dog back to its owner then it is open to the owner to make a claim for “wrongful retention of goods”.

A claim for wrongful retention of goods involves proceedings being commenced in the County Court or High Court (normally in relation to a case concerning a dog such proceedings would be brought in the County Court).

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