The New Jersey Appellate Division was recently faced with an interesting issue of who rightly owned an English Bull Dog originally purchased from a breeder.
A mother and her adult son contributed to the original purchase of Kano, an English Bull Dog. By happenstance, within a year of the purchase of Kano, the son was sentenced to six months in jail, which was unrelated to the issues in this case. He and the other family members wanted to be certain that Kano was well taken care of until the son was released from jail.
Thus a caretaker was located, who signed a contract with the family that she would take possession and care of the canine for the amount of $500 per month plus expenses for the period of the jail sentence. Within that period of time, the mother paid a visit to see how the dog was doing with her temporary caregiver, with the meeting taking place at a local park. The visit was cordial.
Soon thereafter the son was released from jail. The caretaker then went diabolical and refused to give the dog back, claiming that, in fact, when the mother visited her in the park, she told the caretaker that the dog was now hers, in essence gifting the dog to this caretaker. The family denied that any such conversation or gifting had taken place.
The Court, in its written opinion, described that lawsuit as a “replevin action,” in that “a person seeking recovery of goods wrongly held by another may bring an action for replevin in the Superior Court…. Pets are a form of personal property and, therefore, may properly be the subject of a replevin action.”
The long and short of the Court’s ruling was that there was overwhelming evidence that the canine was originally legally purchased and cared for by family members for more than a year before the son’s jail sentence. Moreover, the legal threshold for convincing the Court that Kano was gifted from the family to the caretaker was not met. Thus the dog was ordered to be returned to the family and – we hope – Kano lives happily ever after.
Richmond v. Martinou (App Div No A-0773-22)