Dog Ownership laws can be difficult to swallow for many people as dogs are considered property under the law despite the emotional attachments owners have towards their dogs – and dogs to their owners.

When a dispute arises regarding ownership of a dog the Court can decide the issue and most cases will be heard in the Small Claims Court.

Claims can involve:

  • legal ownership;
  • the return of the animal;
  • damages for the wrongful keeping of the animal. The Court could simply decide that the dog is owned jointly and if an agreement on who should have it cannot be reached then the Court could Order that the dog should be sold and the proceeds of sale divided equally between the parties. Alternatively, the Court may decide on shared ownership, so that each person has the dog for half of the year on an annual basis. In order to give yourself the best chance of persuading the Judge that you should be declared the owner of the dog you might want to consider the following:
  • Within divorce proceedings, the ownership of a dog would be decided at the same time as deciding on who should retain the other matrimonial assets. So the dog is simply treated as another item with a monetary value. The Court cannot make an Order giving one party Contact with the absent owner as within children proceedings.
  • The Court will consider various aspects of the case such as who bought the animal and who provides the day-to-day care for the animal.
  • Ensure the dog’s microchip names you as the owner;
  • Ensure the dog is registered with the Kennel Club in your name (if not a pedigree then consider registering him/her on the activity register);
  • Ensure that the dog is registered with a vet; and
  • Anything else that might persuade you of the ownership of someone else’s dog (Judge’s are only human after all!).

We can help

For all initial enquiries relating to Canine Law please contact our dispute resolution team on 01522 561020.

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