Negotiating Pet Contracts
I have what some people might consider to be a rather excessively long sales contract for my pet puppies. As of today, it’s sitting at five pages, although some of that has to do with the fact that I decided to change it to double spaced, to make it easier to read. Even so, it’s still pretty long.
You can see my contract in PDF format here, and read the rest of this entry below.
In my defense, every single clause in my contract is there because I truly and deeply care about what happens to each puppy I sell. More importantly, every single clause is there because, at one point in time or another, either myself or someone I know (or know of) had to deal with that very situation.
Initially, my contract covers the basics – who the dog is, when they were born, who the sire and dam are, who the sellers and purchasers are. It includes a standard clause that the dog will included my kennel name when it is registered, and a note stating that paperwork will not be sent until proof of spay or neuter is provided to us.
Following this, we get into the nitty gritty – my responsibilities regarding health, and the buyers’ responsibilities for care and ongoing health and well being of the dog.
I made a conscious decision to try to make my contract as all-encompassing as possible when it comes to covering health issues in puppies we’ve bred. It goes without saying that I don’t have one of those ridiculous clauses about getting the puppy to the vet within 24 hours. I don’t care if new buyers take a week to get in to see a new vet (although, of course, they should have done their homework and made a vet appointment before their new pup comes home). I don’t care, really, what reason a buyer might have for returning a puppy within the first month or so – if they don’t want it, I buy it back, plain and simple. So, there’s really no need for a clause exempting me from liability for diseases like coccidia or kennel cough (although I’ve never had a puppy with either, and don’t know anyone else who ever has, either, no matter the puppy mills say about it being ‘common in puppies’). I would never sell a sick puppy knowingly, and I’d never shirk either taking them back, or paying for their vet care, if it did happen. Who possibly could, in good conscience?
I do, however, insist on the right to have my vet examine the consulting vet’s paper work. I also include a clause allowing me to arrange to get a second opinion. It’s a sad but true fact that I’ve become somewhat jaded about veterinarians in the last few years. I’ve seen, on more than one occasion, veterinarians take advantage of the worried nature of new puppy buyers and suggest some of the most outrageous, unnecessary and over priced treatments you can imagine – and each time, for minor conditions which either require no treatment at all, or which could be treated in much less invasive manners. In most of these cases, these bullying fear mongers cave quickly when their shady diagnoses are scrutinized by another veterinarian. In one memorable instance, the ‘diagnosis’ of this vet was so patently ridiculous and un-ethical that my own veterinarian tossed around the term ‘veterinary review board’ when speaking to the vet in question. They quickly rescinded their initial diagnosis. Make of it what you will that in almost every single incident involving inflated veterinary diagnosis, the vets have been from a small handful of very major cities, operating out of huge, shiny, modern clinics. You never run into this sort of thing with single practice vets in more modest surroundings.
A clause insisting on a secondary diagnosis isn’t just to protect myself, as the seller – it’s also, and perhaps more importantly, to protect the puppy from undergoing life threatening and unnecessary treatments.
Next comes the meat and potatoes portion of our health clauses – genetic illness. Simply put, once again, I strive to cover everything genetic that can go wrong and threaten the life of this dog, up to two years of age. I set ‘two’ as a limit because, in French Bulldogs, anything serious enough to put the dog’s life at risk will have shown up by then, or long before hand. Mega Esophagus, liver shunt, juvenile cataracts, severe heart murmur – most of these will show up before one year, let alone two. I put an upper limit on age because, beyond that, there are things that I can’t possibly cover. A French Bulldog that has gets degenerative disk disease at six, or develops cataracts at ten, or becomes mildly lame from dysplasia by eight is simply beyond my scope to compensate for. I also have heard horror stories about breeders who’ve received back cancer stricken eleven year old dogs, along with requests for a full refund based on cancer being, arguably, a genetic condition. Yes, people can be and sometimes are just this callous.
Next in terms of importance is the ‘You can’t breed this dog ever, ever, ever’ portion of the contract. Seems simple, you’d think – the dog was sold as a pet, and pets can’t be bred. Who could argue this? Quite a few people, it turns out. In one memorable case, buyers purchases a dog on a limited registration contract, and still bred the dog. They were then frustrated to discover that they couldn’t register the puppies through the AKC, so sued in a court of law – and won. The judge ruled, in effect, that the owners had the right to full enjoyment and ‘use’ of their ‘property’ (said property being the dog in question). So, this additional clause covers us from buyers breeding their dog irregardless of the contract they initially agreed to. It also effectively states that if they do so, we as the sellers not only own the offspring, but are also entitled to damages. Again, a clause like this is really more about acting as a deterrent – because who wants their puppy to ever go through anything like this?
Next comes the part which states, in essence, that if the buyer ever neglects, mistreats, abuses or otherwise doesn’t care for the dog, I can – and will – take it back. Again, this is a deterrent clause that we hope to never have to enforce. Ever.
Finally, and almost of most importance, is the ‘you can’t ever get rid of this dog’ clause. Sell it, trade it, place it, swap it – you can’t do it, not with my dog, and not for any reason. Do it, and I’ll sue you. I’ll sue you for a lot. This one, unfortunately, I did learn from personal experience. Never again, though.
So, there you have it. The nuts and bolts of a pet puppy contract. Can you imagine what our show quality contracts look like?
You can argue – and many do – that proper screening should eliminate the need for contracts as thorough as this. I disagree. Some of the most charming people can turn out to be bad owners, and some of the most abrupt and rude can turn out to be the best. Initial opinions and general impressions a buyer makes on a seller should never replace a strongly worded legal document that protects all of the parties involved. Good fences make good neighbors, and good contracts make good puppy sales.
Most importantly, a good contract protects the one party in this proceeding that can’t speak for itself – the dog being sold. As both buyers and sellers, our first consideration should always be the dog. When that fails to be so, a contract can step in to do so for us.
Well good for you. We need responsible breeders, not those jerks who are breeding the ‘pet’ dogs which should never be bred. I do rescue, I also have two purebreds, and breeding scares the crap out of me, I can’t do it. 🙂
Personally, I think it’s an excellent contract. But then again, I’m all about responsibility.
I found your website while blogsurfing and have been engrossed for almost two hours reading all your old entries. THANK you for making a copy of this available. I own my first show bitch who is now 6 months old and have started thinking about contracts for placing pet puppies already. 😛 (I love my mentor and truly trust her taste in what would compliment my girl’s structure and type, but I’m not satisfied with her contract and I haven’t found one I’m happy wth in any of my books yet, either.) Wouldit be okay to take yours to my lawyer to use as a model?