Facts: P was a breeder of rare and expensive silver foxes. He had semi-domesticated a
certain fox and it accidentally escaped its cage. It was later found and shot by a rancher
and sold to a dealer. P attempted to sue for the value of the fox pelt, arguing that the fox
bore indicia and that the dealer had knowledge of the industry and the fact that the fox
was taken in an area where it is not found. The trial court found in favor of P.
Issue: Does an owner lose possession over a semi-domesticated wild animal when that
animal escapes as the common law suggests, or does the fact that this is an industry with
specific customs force the court to consider a different alternative?
Holding: Affirmed. D had knowledge that the fox had an owner, that the pelt purchased
was a product of a vast, legitimate and generally known industry, had an ascertainable
value, was not purchased from the owner, had been taken in an unusual way, the animal
was taken in a locality where that species does not live in the wild and that it is a state
where large numbers are kept in captivity.
Rationale:
P attempts to use the concept of animum revertendi that he still maintains control over a
wild animal that regains its natural liberty if the animal has intent to return. This idea
does not apply in this situation
D had knowledge of all the factors mentioned, and the court is loathe believe that a
person may capture a wild animal in an unusual environment and instantly declare
possession over it when there was obviously an owner whose title to the animal had been
acquired with considerable expenditure of time, labor, and money.
Because this was an animal not of the region, possession rights are inherent.
1. Basic rule of Pierson: Capture- owner is the person who has deprived the animal
of its natural liberty (can be short of actual capture)
2. Application of this rule: Shaw is fact-based, Ghen is custom-based
3. Released or escaped animals: If it escapes, it has regained its natural liberty and is
owned by no one. The exceptions are animals that have intent to return and
animals that are not native to the region