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Harlee: Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers is Not the Law (Dec. 2, 2008)

The Court of Appeals issued an important decision for those who lose their companion animals. In this custody dispute over Harlee, a Pomeranian, at issue was whether SpokAnimal had legal title upon surrender of Harlee by a third-party finder who found Harlee in the county, not the city. In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals noted that if Harlee were found in the county, as alleged, then SpokAnimal could not pass any title to even an innocent adopter.
Because there was no “voluntary transaction” transferring possession to SpokAnimal, voidable title doctrine, bona fide purchaser doctrine, comparative innocence doctrine, and entrustment doctrine – under Ch. 62A.2 RCW and common law – do not apply. Further, Washington’s lost property law, Ch. 63.21 RCW, does not apply to animals, though it bolsters claim that it matters where the animal is found (report to city if found in city, county if in county).


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Photo of Cady the Labrador,
Courtesy of Grant Hopper

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