Is it legal to feed someone else's dog without thier permission?

I work for a Land Surveying company in Louisiana. Occasionally, I have to go into the field for different reasons. Last week I went into the field and I saw someone’s pet dog, in a deplorable condition. The dog was starving, and its water bowl was empty.

Hence, my question. Should I come across this situation again, would it be legal for me to feed the dog, and give it some water?

ok thats about all

Any help is appreciated


I can’t imagine any legal system anywhere where it would be illegal to feed a starving dog.

Even if it was illegal, can you imagine any court convicting you? I think the owner would be far more likely to face charges of animal cruelty.

Yes, I agree, it is only rational to assume that anyone who pressed charges against me for feeding their dog, would get laughed out of court.

But it is for that reason that I am asking the question, because the courts do not have to be rational. I can envision circumstances developing which would lead to a liable verdict.

You’d be better off (and so would the animal) if you called the ASPCA or local animal control.

What if the dog had a dietary condition unknown to you, and you fed it something that killed it?

I would not recommend feeding it, I would personally either take the dog and bring it to a shelter or call the police and let them deal with the owner and get the dog taken to a safe place.

Call the ASPCA and report the owner. If you can, get pictures of the dog, and its empty bowls to show the animal control/ASPCA people to convince them if they need it, while making a note of the critter’s location and the date you took the pictures. That is the best thing you can do for an animal being neglected like that, let the authorities remove the critter and find it a better home.

Legalities aside, one thing to consider is that the kind of person who would starve their dog probably isn’t going to take kindly to you coming onto their property and feeding it.

Are you on the land (where the dog is) with the permission of the owner?

The answer to Random’s question is yes, I, or rather we (me and the rest of the survey crew) had the permission of the land owner to be on the land. The dog was not owned by the land owner, however. The dog was owned by a tennent. It’s not that far of a stretch to envision a starving dog, on an adjacent piece of property which we are not surveying (and have no reason to be on that piece of property.)

Cluricaun’s makes a good point, "what if the dog is allergic to generic run-of-the-mill dog food, and needed some special dog food? A good counter-point is that if the dog needed special dog food, then it should have starved to death, already. The owner is not feeding it like he/she is supposed to, not even with generic food, hence the dog’s condition. At this point, anything I give it will help the situation.

The rest of you have said, call the police, animal control, or ASPCA. This idea occurred to me also, but it does not do our company any good to call the police on our clients, their tennants, or their neighbors. So, while this might be the best thing to do, for the dog, it does not have the best outcome for me or our firm. It still a very good option and it remains on the table, as an option.

Nah, I was just playing Dopers advocate. If it were me, I’d toss the dog half my sandwich, to hell with what might be the “right” thing to do.

Animal control and the ASPCA take anonymous tips too ya know. :wink: Tip them off “unofficially” so they can do their own investigation. Watch programs like Animal Planet’s Animal Cops or Animal Precinct to get a better idea of how the process works in some places. Most officers are smart enough not to tell who tipped them off, because they want to continue getting tips.

and, of course, for pure anonymity, you could pay cash to call from a payphone. The local ASPCA doesn’t have the kind of resources to figure out who made such a call.

Feed the dog. it is highly unlikely to be allergic. Carry a small bag of dry food in your car.

My old dog has always been prone to debilitating stomach cramps (unable to stand up, writhing on floor in pain) due to a sudden change in food. Changing brands to avoid this is a 2 week process, slowly increasining the new/old chow ratio.

Thus I claim that rehabilitation of a starving animal needs to be done in a controlled supervized enviroment, with access to a vet if required. Not all animals will be this sensitive, but you can’t tell beforehand which will be.

Well, I like the idea of putting a call in anonymously. I already know that no-one has the resources to trace a call for the sake of an animal. Hence, this may be the best idea yet. Still the client is going to know what happened, but it can’t be proven…

Excuse the sidetrack, but even if someone does have the resources to trace a call to a payphone how on earth would they be able to pinpoint the specific person who placed it?

Regardless of the food, DO give the dog water.
All dogs need water, and any generic water will do. And no court will convict you of anything for giving water to a thirsty dog. If any ever did, contact the local media and you will be a hero with people falling over each other to pay your fine.

And about the food, even if the dog happened to require some special food, it obviously isn’t getting it, if it’s starving. Any food, even if not the special type needed, is better than no food.

So what I would do in such a situation:

  1. give the dog water. Definately, no question.
  2. give the dog food. Even if it might be ‘illegal’.
  3. notify someone (Humane Society/ASPC/sheriff) so the problem is fixed permanently. Do it anonymously if you must, but don’t just leave the animal to suffer again.

Do you really think the client will care that somebody from your company reported his/her tenant? It would seem more probable to me that the client/landlord wouldn’t really care, and might even be another animal lover who would think you did exactly right.

BTW, giving a dog with no water dry dog food isn’t a very good idea. The dog could easily be so hungry that it would try to eat it anyway, and might choke to death. The crucial question is how long the dog had been without water. And it’s still hot weather next door here in MS.

It’s not too late to call the humane society even now. Even if the dog had a good meal and a full bowl of water since you were there, that’s not enough to restore a dog in “deplorable” condition.

If you are going to carry some emergency dog food with you, I would suggest getting a hypoallergenic kind. Lamb and rice is very commonly given to dogs with food sensitivies, and can be purchased anywhere you would buy dog food. Get the highest quality you can afford - there’s a big nutritional difference between Old Roy, Pedigree, and Eukanuba.