No matter how much we love our pets, there’s always the chance they will run into a legal situation. Attorney David Aylor took time to answer questions from our readers in this edition of Ask a Lawyer.
QUESTION: My neighbor recently decided to breed her Golden Retriever and I asked if I could get one of the puppies and I gave her a $50 deposit. Last week I was told I would not be receiving one, because she was expecting eight puppies and only six were born. My children are extremely disappointed. Do I have any legal remedies to get one of the six puppies? – Growly in West Ashley
DAVID AYLOR: Growly, each breeder will have different policies and practices. However, to paint with a broad brush on this topic: depending on the breeder, these deposits can be taken months in advance and be hundreds of dollars. Most of these deposits are non- refundable and are used to give you a chronological slot in the line of interested buyers. That said, legally, you entered into a contract with your neighbor with specific terms that are binding on both of you. Unless the agreement you two entered into guaranteed you a puppy, your neighbor has likely upheld her end of the contract and no remedy is available.
Even if they broke the agreement, proving the breach of contract is difficult unless it is in writing. Even then, it is always advisable to maintain good relations with your neighbors.
QUESTION: With the pandemic hopefully easing this year, my daughter who has been working in London is hoping to return home with a cat she adopted there. I’m seeing a pile of paperwork and other issues to bring “Big Ben” back to the states. Any advice on cutting through the red tape? – Cat Crazy in Park Circle
DAVID AYLOR: While the initial wave of COVID may be easing, England is unfortunately one of the countries experiencing a new strain – a lot is still unknown. There is good news, generally, cats are one of the easier animals to get back into the U.S. That still means that preparation and paperwork need to be completed, but it could be much worse. To streamline that, the best advice is to hire a pet relocation consultant. I won’t recommend any specific companies, but these companies will help handle the situation, and will (hopefully) be cheaper than hiring a lawyer well versed in COVID-related International Import/Travel Regulations.
QUESTION: My roommate went home to see her parents last summer and left her cat with me. She’s been in Pennsylvania this entire time due to the COVID health scare. It’s been six months; can I keep the cat permanently? – Kitty Love Downtown
DAVID AYLOR: Without more information, your roommate could actually be convicted of a misdemeanor. South Carolina Code of Laws Section 47-1-70 requires “A person may not abandon an animal. As used in this Section “abandonment” is defined as “deserting, forsaking, or intending to give up absolutely an animal without securing another owner or without providing the necessities of life.” Necessities include food, water, and shelter. If it is the case that your roommate
left the cat in your possession without your consent, and without providing you with (or the funding for) purchasing these necessities, the misdemeanor may apply. That said, this is obviously extreme.
The best advice in a situation like this, is to inform your roommate, in writing, that you have been taking care of the animal and that you wish to keep the animal. If she refuses, ask her to pay for the expenses associated with the animal’s care, and then demand that she pay for the cat to be transported back to Pennsylvania. Send these requests in writing, and have her responses be in writing. If she refuses either of these requests, you have the basis to keep the cat as its new owner and can inform her of that in writing. This will obviously strain your relationship with your roommate, and it is a better idea to try to work out a deal with her – offer to pay for the cat outright.