What are the legal implications of taking a client's cat into your own home to care for it? | Lawhive - Solicitors & Lawyers Online
What are the legal implications of taking a client's cat into your own home to care for it?
I am in England. I do cat sitting via a pet sitting app that matches people with cat sitters in their area. Last week I accepted a last minute booking from someone who said their sitter fell through at the last minute. I went round to meet the owner and cat and collect the keys, and agreed to visit the cat twice a day to feed and spend some time playing with him. The owner had to rush out the door to catch a train and said they’d confirm the booking via the app once they got on the train. They didn’t confirm the booking and are now not reading or responding to messages in the app (my only way of contacting them as the app only gives emergency contact details once a booking is confirmed). Long story short, they haven’t got the funds to pay for the booking; the app’s support desk has confirmed that they’ve attempted to make the payments but they failed. I will continue to look after the cat of course. However, my main concern is not the money nor the fact that I am now not insured by the app for this sit, but that the owner indicated that a friend will be taking over from me to look after the cat next week as they will still be away for another week at that point. I’m going out of the country next week for a week so can’t continue to watch the cat. I’m very concerned that this friend won’t get in touch with me and I don’t know their name, nor how to contact them. I am not going to cancel my trip, but I will not abandon this cat. Where would I stand legally if I took the cat to my home? I have two cats of my own and have booked (and pre-paid for) a sitter via the app for the full duration of my trip, so the sitter will be covered legally as per the terms of the app. I would inform the owner and return the cat once they return from their trip. Would I be opening myself up to a theft charge if I do this? Or if my cats decide they don’t like this cat and somehow hurt him (v unlikely, they’re senior moggies and very docile), am I legally responsible for vet bills, etc? My partner thinks that I should just leave the owner’s keys under a flowerpot at our place and tell the owner where his friend can collect them. (For the record, I do not like this idea at all.) But for argument’s sake, if this friend doesn’t materialise and the cat winds up being left on his own for several days, would I be liable for any harm that comes to him if I do as my partner suggests? EDIT: removed gender pronouns

Jeffrey Drake

20th October 2021

+52

55 upvotes

Top Answer
Nal - you have 2 choices, you personally look after the cat, or you inform the RSPCA about the cat being abandoned in your care. You have an implied contract so can seek compensation for your work so far, as evidenced by your messages and an attempted payment through the app. But similarly you have a duty of care for this cat and brining it home opens you up for liability if it was attacked, injured or lost. My opinion, contact the RSPCA, get them to take in the cat, inform the owner, post the keys back through their door with video evidence, and complain to the app about this users behaviour.

George Atherton

11th February 2022

+124

127 upvotes

I agree that RSPCA is the right choice here. You should not be open to a theft charge if you took the animal in with intention of returning it, theft requires intent to permanently deprive the owner of their property. You would however be assuming more responsibility than you need to, handing that responsibility over to the RSPCA is the simplest way to wash your hands of it while protecting the animal. On the face of it, it sounds as if the owner is badly organised rather than intentionally negligent. Pop an invoice through their door for your full fee and the dates agreed, due in 28 days, to reinforce the contract they have with you.

Louis Thomas

11th February 2022

+27

30 upvotes

If you are in the app that I think you are, and you aren't covered, then they didn't accept the booking. It wasn't finalised, so as far as I know, unfortunately, they won't have to pay you as there isn't a contract in place. If there was, the app themselves would need to get the money from them, not you.

Zelma Swedlund

11th February 2022

+2

5 upvotes

Am I right that you've not been paid? How will you be paid for the sitting? Will the friend that is going to take over pay you? Sounds like you'll be dealing with none payment by the end of the week more importantly anyway. From what you've said, it all seems plausible and valid excuses to have them ask for the cat back and get it back eventually. I think one question to ask is can RSPCA legally take ownership of the cat then give it to you. That's the only way you have footing, in my opinion.

James Glandon

11th February 2022

2 upvotes

It definitely wouldn't be theft as the threshold for theft is intent to PERMENANTLY deprive. This *seems* to me to be a civil issue about how best you should look after the cat. Since the payment failed there is no contract that requires you to stay at their residence as per the terms of the app. (NAL, perhaps there is an implied contract if they are still agreeing to pay at a future date). I would suggest asking this question to the cat owner and explaining your situation.

Brian Kappeler

11th February 2022

2 upvotes

NAL your commitment to the welfare of the cat is commendable. I'd advise contacting cats protection league, I found them more helpful than the rspca this was 15 years ago though. Good luck

Gloria Mills

11th February 2022

2 upvotes

Not sure if updates are allowed but the owner has been in touch and paid and I now have contact details for the friend. Thanks to everyone who commented, this was very helpful

Jeffrey Drake

11th February 2022

+6

9 upvotes

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