There’s an old legal joke: “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”
Lawyers know the value of getting things done right the first time.
These days, though, thanks to the internet and a few friends who may have recently graduated from law school, it feels like we all have access to free legal advice!
Still, when it comes to knowing when a dog is legally yours—or not—it’s important that you get it right.
Here’s what you need to know before adopting or buying a dog.
How long before a dog is legally yours?
When you buy a dog, the sale is legal when the following things happen:
- You pay for it.
- You take it home (or have it delivered).
- You sign the paperwork.
- You pick up your new pet from the seller’s location.
How is a dog considered abandoned?
If you leave your dog alone for more than 24 hours, it can be considered abandonment.
However, if you’re going to be gone for less than 24 hours and the dog is in no physical danger (and doesn’t have any history of being neglected), then it’s okay to leave your pet alone for that amount of time.
If you leave your dog alone for more than 7 days without making arrangements with someone else who will take care of it, that could also be considered abandonment.
If you leave your pet alone without food or water for longer than 30 days, this would also count as abandonment.
What are state laws on abandonment and ownership?
There are state laws that define what abandonment and ownership mean.
In general, if you take a dog into your home, care for it, and then change your mind about keeping it, you have abandoned it.
This can happen even if the dog was rescued from an animal shelter or another person.
Whether or not a dog is legally yours depends on where you live and how long you’ve had the dog in question.
If a stray wandered into your house one day and stayed for only 24 hours before leaving again, there’s no way any court would recognize that person as the owner of that dog.
On the other hand, if someone has taken care of their pet for several years with an intent to keep it forever—whether they were planning to breed them or use them as therapy animals—they may be considered its legal owner even though they never paid anything toward its purchase price or adoption fee (in which case we’d probably say “free-range”).
Those of us who love dogs know that they are more than just property—they are family members, companions, and friends.
But legally speaking, dogs are still considered property under the law.
That means you have to keep in mind the same rules for buying and selling a dog that applies to buying and selling any other piece of personal property.
If you’re thinking about getting a new dog, be sure to do your research on what it takes to make your pup part of the family.