Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

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Geometer
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Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:23 pm
Location: Suffolk

Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by Geometer »

It's some years since I last posted on this forum, I'm glad to see its still as well-used and useful as ever.

I'm posting now because I have an unexpected animal welfare problem to deal with and I'm slightly out of my depth. I'd appreciate some informed advice. I'll keep it as brief as possible, I'm happy to answer questions.

The situation is that a close friend passed away unexpectedly last week and I'm now looking after his dog. It's not critically urgent but he needs to be rehomed asap. There are family members with an interest and a say in the dog's future but nobody is in a position to take him in permanently, myself included. I'm taking the lead in the matter of rehoming because I'm best placed to do so and it's a practical way of helping at a difficult time. I'm also very fond of the dog and want to do what's best for him. Everybody's on speaking terms and we're all working together but for practical reasons the final decision will effectively be mine.

The dog is a 12-year old un-neutered Jack Russell. He's a much-loved good-natured family dog with many qualities but he's had a sheltered life and picked up some bad habits. He can snap if he's mishandled when in a certain frame of mind, not viciously but he has broken skin on a few occasions, and he hasn't mixed much with other dogs and finds it difficult to socialise with them; this has led to fights once or twice. He also hates motorcycles and will lunge after them in the street. He's otherwise remarkably placid for a JR. In my opinion - I'm not an expert but I grew up with dogs and I've known this one all his life - these habits are largely down to poor training when young and I believe he would respond well to a bit of focused training from someone who knows what they're doing. I'm given to understand, however, that they could create potential obstacles to progress through conventional rescue and rehoming organisations. My enquiries with local organisations haven't been entirely fruitless, there is at least one option open to us but there is also a strong reluctance among the family, which I share, to put him into institutional care.

Fortunately, we seem to have had some good luck. Long story short; I've been put in touch with a local lady who fosters and rehomes "difficult" dogs as a sort of vocation. Apparently she's quite well known for this locally and has been doing it successfully for some time. We've met, I've visited her premises and she's met the dog. I was favourably impressed with her set-up and her dog-handling skills, and the 5 dogs she currently has were healthy, happy and well-behaved. She loved the dog and has offered to take him on as a permanent foster. She is also conveniently local and happy to allow regular contact between the dog and myself and the family. My gut feeling is that this offer represents the best outcome we can expect short of adoption by myself or a family member.

I have one reservation, however. The arrangement would be informal, and years of reading this forum has taught me that informal arrangements can go wrong. Although I have a good feeling about her offer, and no reason to suspect that she would go back on her word or mistreat the dog, I do feel the arrangement should be underpinned by a written agreement of some sort.

This is what I would appreciate help with. I can write a coherent report but a legal document is a bit outside my field. I want to keep it friendly and she did say that she was happy to sign an agreement, so any advice on format, particular wording to use, essential content to include etc., would be most welcome.

Thanks for reading.
mugwump
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Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by mugwump »

I would have thought that any agreement needs to be between the lady and the executor/administrator as the dog is currently the the property of the estate
Geometer
Posts: 207
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:23 pm
Location: Suffolk

Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by Geometer »

mugwump wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:36 am I would have thought that any agreement needs to be between the lady and the executor/administrator as the dog is currently the the property of the estate
You're correct. My friend was separated from his wife but she remains his official next-of-kin and executor. I'm acting on her instruction and she has confidence in my judgment. Any final decision will be hers but she will accept my recommendations.
TumbleWeed
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Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by TumbleWeed »

I can't offer a legal solution but once the lady has updated the dog's microchip with her name and address would that not make her the dog's recognised owner?

A friend and I both rehomed cats from a local charity and I assumed responsibility when I registered my cats' chips. Whereas the charity remained the registered owner of my friend's cat because it had feral tendencies and would wander and the charity offered to handle any calls reporting it as found or handed in to a vet, and this worked well until the cat went completely off-grid after about 7 years (either fully feral or passed away).

Are you worried that she'll hand the dog back at some point if she can't improve its social skills?
Geometer
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Location: Suffolk

Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by Geometer »

TumbleWeed wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 10:33 am I can't offer a legal solution but once the lady has updated the dog's microchip with her name and address would that not make her the dog's recognised owner?
I presume so but I really don't know for certain, it's not something I have any experience with.

TumbleWeed wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 10:33 am Are you worried that she'll hand the dog back at some point if she can't improve its social skills?
I wasn't until you mentioned the possibility, I don't honestly think it's likely but it's something else to consider.

My principle concerns are that a) if she takes the dog in she does so in the knowledge that he has some behavioural issues and at her own risk, b) she has agreed to allow regular contact with the dog by myself and family members and I'd like to have this in writing, and c) I would like to retain the right, both for myself and the family, to take the dog back if we think he's being mistreated.

I have no reason, at present, to suspect that any of the above might create difficulties and I may be over-thinking all this, but the dog's owner was my best friend and I owe it to him to do the best for his dog. It's all uncharted waters for me.
MacadamB53
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Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by MacadamB53 »

Geometer wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 11:29 am
TumbleWeed wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 10:33 am I can't offer a legal solution but once the lady has updated the dog's microchip with her name and address would that not make her the dog's recognised owner?
I presume so but I really don't know for certain, it's not something I have any experience with.

TumbleWeed wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 10:33 am Are you worried that she'll hand the dog back at some point if she can't improve its social skills?
I wasn't until you mentioned the possibility, I don't honestly think it's likely but it's something else to consider.

My principle concerns are that a) if she takes the dog in she does so in the knowledge that he has some behavioural issues and at her own risk, b) she has agreed to allow regular contact with the dog by myself and family members and I'd like to have this in writing, and c) I would like to retain the right, both for myself and the family, to take the dog back if we think he's being mistreated.

I have no reason, at present, to suspect that any of the above might create difficulties and I may be over-thinking all this, but the dog's owner was my best friend and I owe it to him to do the best for his dog. It's all uncharted waters for me.
imho, only point b) is really a viable option here because:

point a) is a given - if you ask to become the owner of a dog it comes with the inherent risk of the dog behaving badly/unexpectedly

point c) is unrealistic - how would it play out in the real world? you could just take the dog whenever it took your fancy…

just get the terms for regular contact in writing - how often, notice to be given, how long visits may last, etc
Geometer
Posts: 207
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2008 3:23 pm
Location: Suffolk

Re: Rehoming a dog - advice on legal aspects needed

Post by Geometer »

Thank you to all who have responded to this post. I'm glad to say the matter has been resolved.
Turns out there is a personal connection I wasn't aware of and I've been told, in the nicest possible way, that I'm being over-anxious and to pull my finger out. I'm fine with that.
Cheers all.
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