What to do about animal theft?

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What to do about animal theft?

My mom and sister kicked out my husband, son and I. When I returned to get my stuff I asked them if I could get my tortoise and they told me that they were keeping him because my sister bought him food. I offered to buy food but every time I did my sister told me not to. I don’t have the receipt for him any more. Is there any way I can get him back?

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Legally, if the tortoise is yours, you can sue for his return; practically, there may be no way to do this. First, as you seem aware of, there is the issue of proving it is your tortoise, if there are not receipts or other written records; you can offer testimony (e.g. your own, your husband's), but presumably your mother and sister will testify to the contrary. If you are the one suing, the burden of proof is on you, which means that if the evidence is equal, you lose. Second, small claims court cannot generally grant orders requiring people to do things, like return animals; they usually can just grant money damages (which, in an animal case, are limited to the cost of the animal.) You may have to sue in a higher or more general court, which could be prohibitively expensive.


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