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Who Is The Legal Owner Of Your Lost Dog

(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

(credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If your property is lost or stolen, you should be able to get it back if someone else finds it. But if your property wanders away, then what?

A New Jersey man owned a dog, whom he took to his now former friend’s house to breed. The dog lived with the friend for a year, after which time the friends became enemies and the original owner sued to get the dog back.

In most cases where someone’s property is lost or stolen, he can get it back from the finder of the property. But at what point does your dog become someone else’s?

According to the New Jersey court, about a year. Because the original owner hadn’t asked for the dog back for a year even though he knew his friend had it, he lost the right to claim continued ownership.

If you lose a dog and someone finds him, who gets to keep the dog will generally be based on the effort you took to try to get him back. If you’ve put up flyers and ads on Craigslist and contacted shelters, you may get that dog back even if time has elapsed. But if the finder has tried hard to find the owner and a long enough period has elapsed with no contact, unlike with other property, the finder can become the new owner.

So, get a microchip so the dog can be identified if brought to a shelter or vet, and a collar with your number – and a good strong fence.