Can we sue for return of our dog pluscosts, ifa petsitterwill not give it back and has had it spayed without our knowledge or consent?

We bought a Chiuahua puppy 8 months ago. We asked my wife’s grandmother to ask her if she would look after the dog temporarily while my wife gave birth; she agreed. We told her that we would prefer for her to look after the dog until our son was 6 months old. However, when we were ready toa take the dog back, her grandmother freaked out and said “over my dead body”. She said that she has become attached to the dog and would not return it no matter what. I just found out she had got the dog spayed which, as I am Jewish, is completely forbidden. So now, even if I get the dog back, I cannot breed it. She does not deny that she made an agreement with us, and simply her reason is that, “she is in love with the dog” and that “the dog will not be safe with a toddler”. We are very loving and caring and would not let anything happen to Coco. The dog cost us $1400; I have all the purchase paperwork. I would like to know if I took this to a small claims court, could I win my dog back and compensation for the spaying? I could have made close to $3000 if Coco could have been mated. Is there a law that states if someone has someone else’s dog for more than 6 months, even though she agreed to look after it, then they get to keep the dog?

Asked on December 7, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, New Jersey


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your dog is personal property just like, say, a car or a toaster.  Under the law it is known as a "chattel."  If you entrust your personal property with someone for a time being it is generally known as a bailment situation.  In a bailment situation the party who is entrusted with the personal property is under an obligation to keep the property intact and safe.  They are not permitted to sell or alter the property.  That would be known then as "conversion" where the person who is holding the property uses it as their own.  I think that you may have a case for the holding of the property and the refusal to return it.  For the spaying as well.  For the loss of future earnings, well, that may be tough - but not impossible - to prove.  What if she was not fertile and what if you did  not get as many puppies as you thought, etc. Good luck. 

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