Legally reviewed by:
King Law
March 25, 2024

Do you love your dog? Of course, you do! Who wouldn’t right? You probably went to a local animal shelter or pet store and at first glance saw your fluffy friend for life. You thought from that point forward that this dog would be yours right? Well, I hope that is the case for your sake. Somebody can attempt to take ownership or “custody” of your dog if you aren’t careful. So what does that situation look like? Imagine for a moment that you lived with your dog and a significant other. You and your partner treat the dog like it’s a shared child, akin to a parental relationship. Then the relationship takes a turn for the worse and the two of you separate. Who keeps the dog? That’s the big question and there is a fairly simple answer to that.

The first process that you need to look at is the property interest. In North Carolina, dogs are deemed legally to be chattels. Chattels are personal property (rather than real property) such as moveable tangible objects, like a phone, a piece of furniture, or a car. Just like you would prove ownership of any other chattel, you would prove ownership over a dog in a similar manner. This means that there are likely two situations that arise to prove such ownership: (1) You or someone else purchased the dog or (2) You found the dog abandoned.

Let’s look at scenario 1:

If you purchased the dog, then do you have a receipt or some kind of title that was issued by the seller? If so, is it under your name? Who paid the purchase price? If you or someone on your behalf (for your benefit) purchased the dog and can prove that such a purchase took place, then the analysis is fairly simple to determine if another person has any possessory interest in the dog. Did this other person claiming an interest help purchase the dog? Does this other person somehow have his or her name on the title of the dog? Or was this dog possibly abandoned? We will get to that last one later. Odds are that if you purchased the dog and have some kind of proof of it, the other person claiming an interest in the dog likely has zero interest at all legally to claim possession of that dog.

Let’s look at scenario 2:

Abandonment of personal property is a bit tricky in North Carolina. Courts are usually averse to allowing people to deem things abandoned just to take possession of them when the original owner had no intention of abandoning the said property. There is express and/or implied abandonment in North Carolina law. Abandonment is when a person directly states that he or she is abandoning a specific piece of personal property either by saying so verbally or by making an overt action (or lack of action) that would indicate to a reasonable person that he or she is not wanting to maintain ownership of the property. The Courts will examine whether the actions of the original owner were inconsistent with what a reasonable owner would do with the property to maintain ownership and possession of it. These scenarios can go from pure heartbreaking to accidental. Imagine you are walking down the road and someone stops and shoves a poor dog out of the van and drives off. Odds are that if that was the original owner, most courts would deem that dog abandoned. Another situation could be where someone enters into a bailment to help take care of a dog for a temporary period but then the owner never shows back up to pick up the dog.

Bailment Law comes up often with dog ownership cases. Bailment Law in North Carolina is the law that governs the duties and benefits of an exchange of personal property in which one side derives a benefit and the other side does not. It is a legal method for dealing with what people commonly think of as the concept of “borrowing or lending.” The bailor is usually the owner of the personal property and then temporarily gives that property over to the custody and control of the bailee. The benefit of the exchange depends on the situation. For example, imagine you own a dog and you are going on a trip to the North Pole for the summer. It’s gonna be a long trip and you can’t take your dog with you. So you ask a friend to watch and take care of your dog while you are away. Unless you enter into an actual contract with this friend, odds are it was a favor. The benefit was for the Bailor in this example. In a counter-example, imagine you have a friend who is going to a fancy All-American Ball. He or she knows that you own a very expensive Swiss watch and asks to borrow it for the outfit. In this situation, the benefit was for the Bailee. These exchanges however come with duties and usually a fixed period. Whoever is the bailee must keep the property in good working condition. The severity of how high of duty to do so depends on the type of bailment. If the bailee is benefiting from the exchange, then the duty is higher and vice versa.

In a situation involving a dog, Bailment is usually what people mistakenly think “custody” is. Odds are that in most situations when you think someone has a “custody” interest in your dog, they probably only had a bailment arrangement or a “license” to have control or possession of your dog. Overall, most dog ownership debates fall on who has title to the dog. Outside of that, you are likely dealing with abandonment or Bailment Laws.

King Law focuses on Family Law and is equipped to handle any case involving equitable distribution. Rest assured, you’ll receive advanced representation in every situation, with your equitable distribution case receiving top priority. If you expect equitable distribution challenges or any other marital legal issues, reach out to King Law Offices at (888) 748-KING (5464) or fill out our consultation form to schedule an appointment with an attorney today.

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
Carolina Attorneys
March 25, 2024

This blog post has been reviewed and verified by legal experts at King Law. Our team is dedicated to providing premium legal services with compassion, innovation, trust, and advocacy. Serving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, we offer flexible meeting options and strive to exceed client expectations with high-quality legal representation and exceptional client relationships.

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