Often law can be seen as a negative area of work; people suing each other, families breaking down or those being found guilty of crimes. However, there are many cases that have a happy ending, and we here at Stanley & Co believe that this joy should be shared. As such, with permission from the client, we would like to share a story of one of our client’s being reunited with her beloved family pet. 

The children of Our Client, Laura, had been gifted a small chihuahua, Mack, from a friend of theirs at school who could no longer look after it. The children had not had a pet dog before and were thrilled. Mack became an integral part of their family as the children grew up. 

In November 2017, tragedy struck when an ex-partner of Laura’s, believing himself to have equal rights to Mack’s ownership, stole Mack from Laura’s home and refused to return him. The children were devastated, as was Laura, who came to us looking for help in retrieving Mack. 

Our Lawyers have years of experience in debt and property recovery. In South Australia, pets are considered property, however a case such as this is incredibly unusual. The exact method of approach was unprecedented, but we were determined to help Laura and her children. 

After considerable communication with the ex-Partner, Court Proceedings were issued in the Adelaide Magistrates Court, to have a Magistrate determine the matter. Upon application, it became clear that the Court had not previously seen such as an issue, as they were initially uncertain how to classify the matter. Was it a debt? A detinue (wrongfully detaining property)? A conversion of property? This matter was somewhat unexplored territory, for all parties involved. 

The ex-partner in question was not making things any easier, as it took 12 attempts for 2 sets of documents to be served. This, unfortunately, extended the matter, dragging it out across the Christmas Holidays and into March 2018. This meant that Our Client, and her children, were without their precious Mack for the Holidays which was obviously upsetting. 

By March 2018, we had attended Court a number of times on behalf of Laura. We had received judgement in favour of retrieving Mack, but no ruling for how to enforce this judgement. There was an impression that no Magistrate really wanted to deal with this matter due to its unpredictable and unfamiliar legal nature.  

Upon a further application, we requested a Magistrate give us some instruction as to how the Court would like us to return Mack to his family. The Magistrate replied candidly, “I am happy to grant enforcement, if you can tell me what that would be”. Once again, it became clear that the theft, retention and attempted return of a dog was not something the Court frequently saw, let alone had to rule upon.  

After a short adjournment to seek second opinions, it was eventually determined that a ‘Warrant of Possession’ would be issued. This would grant power to an Officer of the Court to attend the ex-partner’s residence and remove the dog. If he did not comply, the Officer would be able to take Mack by force. The Court also granted Laura her costs in the matter, as the Defendant had been far from helpful. 

In the end, the Warrant was successfully executed. Mack was retrieved and returned to Laura completely unharmed. After 6 months of no contact, significant costs and high-strung emotions, the family was reunited with Mack, who was just as happy to see them. Although getting her dog back would have been victory enough, the Court found in our Client’s favour and awarded her the costs of the matter as well. 

Here at Stanley & Co, we pride ourselves on our practical, hands on and personal approach to the law. This is not just a mission statement, but something we actively engage in. Clients like Laura remind us that what we do is to help people, and that is what we want to do. 

If you need a lawyer, even if your matter is a little unusual, contact Stanley & Co. Lawyers today on (08) 7001 6135. We do law, differently.