Legal Question in Civil Litigation in California

Animal Ownership and Recovery of lost Pet

I lost my exotic bird and the next day it was found several blocks away. The party than gave it to a third party. Both parties had misrepresented the description of my pet and refused to allow me to ID her. I knew the bird they had was mine. I called the Sheriff. The Sheriff talked to the 3rd party into letting me and my family identify her. They said they were going to surrender her to Animal Control and than refused. Animal control has told me that this is a civil matter. The Sheriff refuses to take custody of her. All parties concede that she is my bird.

More background....previously the 2nd party had surrendered her to animal control due to the Sheriffs involvement. When I went to ID her there, they told me the 2nd party told them it was not my bird. The 3rd party arrived and showed them a picture of her and told them they had lost her. She was adopted. Animal Control states they were lied to.

I want my bird back. I have been told to take her to court. I would like to get my bird back and make an example out of her to the community. My family pet has been treated like a piece of furniture to be passed about without any regard for her rights and mine.

Cause of Action please and damages. Does civil code 3340 apply?

Asked on 2/09/06, 7:04 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Michael Stone Law Offices of Michael B. Stone Toll Free 1-855-USE-MIKE

Re: Animal Ownership and Recovery of lost Pet

Cause of action for replevin, conversion and punitive damages. Get a lawyer to write a letter explaining these facts and threatening legal action.

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Answered on 2/10/06, 9:44 pm
Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

Re: Animal Ownership and Recovery of lost Pet

Your causes of action would be for replevin and conversion. Both deal with the wrongful appropriation of the plaintiff's property and have essentially identical elements, but the remedy for replevin is the return of the property while the remedy for conversion is the *value* of the property -- in other words, money.

If my pet were in someone else's hands I'd go for replevin, since what I'd want would be the pet rather than the cash. But I would also allege conversion in the alternative, just in case something goes wrong (for example, if the pet were to die before the case was resolved or if the judge decided not to order its return).

Your damages would be the fair retail value of the bird plus compensation for the distress you suffered when it wasn't returned to you, plus any reasonable costs you incurred while trying to get it back. Even if the court orders the bird returned to you you should still be awarded costs and emotional distress damages.

You could seek punitive damages based upon the other parties' false statements to animal control, but I don't know how far that would get you. A jury will be less sympathetic to you than it would if the bird had been stolen instead of just lost.

And at the outset you should seek an injunction barring the person who has the bird from selling it or otherwise transferring it to anyone but you and ordering him to take proper care of the bird while the case is pending. An order that requires him to buy an expensive cage and other costly items may be enough to convince him to give the bird back to you, especially if he realizes he is going to lose anyway.

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Answered on 2/10/06, 9:46 pm

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