a. Facts: puppy is owned by Anne who is away. Bonnie is looking after the puppy for Anne. For some reason Bonnie gives the puppy to Charlie. Now Anne has returned from her trip and wants her puppy back. She’s willing to pay Charlie but Charlie doesn’t want to give up the puppy. What can Anne do?
b. Analysis: An ordinary lawsuit cannot force Charlie to return the puppy. That’s because animals are property and all the court can do is force Charlie to pay Anne the value of the puppy. But Anne doesn’t want the money, she wants the puppy. The best solution is for Anne to invoke a special set of procedures best used when the property is unique. These procedures (the name varies by state) are Warrant in Detinue and/or Replevin. Warrant in Detinue means, in essence that “you’re holding my property unlawfully, give it back. In court, you prove superior ownership & the court issues a judgment that the property is yours, and orders the other party to give it back. This judgment is enforceable by the sheriff’s office. Replevin means that you are holding property to which you have no right and you must give it back. If you win, this too is enforceable by the Sheriff.
c. Note: Anne will have to add Bonnie to the lawsuit against Charlie too.
d. 2nd note: a possible defense by Charlie is that Bonnie was acting as Anne’s agent and therefore had the right to give the puppy away.
e. As I said, a simple case that got very complicated very quickly.