My son bought a dog about 6 months ago, and his roommate let the dog out to go the bathroom and the dog got out through the fence. We posted articles to try to find the dog and a lady called and said her next door neighbors had our dog, so we went over to get it and the people refused to give us the dog back, so we had the police come and they said since we didn’t register the dog with animal control we lost the dog and we could not ever set foot on their property again, or we would be arrested. I don’t understand how they get to keep our dog? Is there anything we can do?
Although we tend to see our pets as part of the family, under the law they are merely property. With that said, the law protects your property. The police may have been referring to a lack of proof of ownership. They may have a policy that without a license, the establishing proof of ownership (and that you didn’t give away or sell your dog) is too complicated a matter to prosecute such a small crime. You can still file a police report, including all of the information you can to establish your ownership.
Additionally, you can always file a civil suit. You can sue the neighbors for “conversion” (a specific type of theft), and demand the return of the dog or request the cost of a replacement dog, as well as perhaps any costs incurred for that dog (i.e. vet bills, insurance, obedience training, etc.). You will probably not be able to sue for any “emotional distress” or any punitive damages. It may or may not be an issue for a small claims court, depending on the type of dog it is. Your state may or may not also have specific legislation allowing you to sue for a stolen pet. You can consult a local attorney to understand your options.