Most of my practice is criminal defense, traffic defense and personal injury. Nonetheless I do consider myself to be a general practitioner of the law. Having a general practice by definition means getting involved in unusual fact patterns.
In this particular case my client had acquired a puppy. She had purchased a puppy, an identification chip was inserted in the puppy, she took the puppy to the vet and was by all rights the proper legal owner of the dog.
She was a new owner of the puppy. Puppies may be sweet but they really don't have discipline or develop ownership ties. For whatever reason the puppy wandered away from the home. My client was incredibly distraught at the loss of the dog and made great efforts to find her puppy.
The dog had the identification chip. Somebody found the dog and took the dog to the vet. The vet apparently scanned the dog found the chip and contacted the facility which had inserted the tip. The facility was in Colorado. That facility in turn contacted the client who contacted the vet. The vet asserted privacy rights over the person who brought in the puppy. In other words, the vet would not tell the owner who brought in the dog.
At this point my client came to me. Maryland has a fairly broad and comprehensive theft statute. One possible form of theft is recovering lost property and refusing to return it to the rightful owner. Maryland considers that theft.
I telephoned the vet and they revealed that they knew the name of the people who brought in the dog but they would not release that name to me citing privacy concerns. I did not threaten the veterinarian with claims of conspiracy to commit theft. Rather I worked on the sympathies and advised that the owner was very much interested in getting back the dog. I found out from the vet that there was a lawyer who is representing the people who found the dog.
I telephoned the lawyer and fully expected not to receive any information. Frankly I would've done the same thing. The lawyer has an ethical obligation not to divulge any of his clients secrets and one of the secrets was the identity of the client. Nonetheless I worked on the lawyer's sympathies. I did discuss with him later my theory of theft for refusal to return the puppy. I was hoping that the lawyer might contact his client and that the client would contact me.
Finally I contacted the police in the hope that they would begin a theft investigation and bring legal process so that the veterinarian might be compelled to reveal the people that brought in the dog.
To my client's delight the fact that I was stirring the potcause the people who found the dog to return the dog.
From being hired to getting the dog back four days or less and three hours of work or less.
It's strange work that somebody has to do it.