Puppy Contracts – Part II

Information compiled by Pam Kaye

Sample language from a number of puppy contracts is provided below in an effort to offer ES breeders a range of possibilities for terms and conditions they may wish to include in their own puppy contracts.  As mentioned in an earlier issue, each breeder will want to tailor these suggested paragraphs to their own individual needs, and is free to pick and choose from among them.  Please refer to Part I of this series for information on which sections are essential to a good puppy contract, and which may be considered optional.

It should be remembered that State laws differ, and application and enforcement of the various provisions mentioned below are subject to applicable State law.  If you wish to be certain that the provisions in your puppy contracts are valid and enforceable in your State, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in that State.

It may be worthwhile for a breeder serious about their contract to research what enforcement possibilities are available in their State should the contract be breached.  Some small claims courts only address monetary claims, and would not be able to help you recover a puppy.  The best suggestion I’ve heard is that you should have your contract, but spend your time screening your potential buyers so that you never need to enforce that contract.  We’ll discuss puppy questionnaires in the last part of this series.

Sample language below is usually separated into the puppy contract components discussed in Part I of this series. You will see that different breeders sometimes have different ideas as to where various components fit in their contracts.  Please also note that if you mix and match these various suggested paragraphs, which come from many different contracts, that you must be sure to make your terms consistent – that is, choose whether you call yourself the Breeder or the Seller and your puppy buyer the Buyer or the Purchaser, but don’t mix and match those terms.  Choose one term to represent each party, and stick with it throughout:

1.  Identification of the parties – some breeders combine the identification portion with the purchase price portion.  Some also (wisely) add blank spaces somewhere in the document to record more information on the buyer, such as address, phone numbers, and email address

  • I, ______, (hereafter known as the Buyer) agree to purchase from _________, (hereafter known as the Breeder), the (male / female) English Shepherd pup:

Litter name –

Description –

  •  This agreement is made, and hereby entered into, on this ___ day of _____, 200_ between ________(Seller) and ________ (Buyer) for the purpose of setting forth the terms and conditions of the purchase by the Buyer of a purebred English Shepherd from the litter whelped on _____ out of:

 Sire:_______________ (registration number)


Dam: _______________(registration number)

The Seller agrees to sell and Buyer agrees to buy one puppy from the above described litter.  The Buyer’s preference is for a (circle one) {list here the available colors} male / female.  The buyer’s second choice is for a (circle one) {list available colors again} male / female.

  •  Puppy’s permanent Avid microchip number is:_________________.

2.  Purchase price – this section may also contain future considerations such as stud service or a puppy back, who will pay for transportation costs, what will be done about registration, and an explanation of any potential rebates

  • The Buyer agrees to put a deposit of at least one third ($___) of the purchase price ($___) down to reserve a puppy from the above described litter.  The deposit is due at the time this contract is signed.
  • The Seller and Buyer will work together to determine which puppy is the best one for the Buyer’s home but the Buyer agrees that the Seller has final say in this determination.  If the Buyer is not satisfied with the Seller’s decision, they must say so, in writing, before taking ownership of the puppy.  At that time the Buyer will receive a refund of 75% of their deposit and this contract is null and void.
  • Ownership of the puppy shall be transferred to the Buyer for the sale price of $____.
  • The Buyer agrees that any and all transportation costs, to and/or from the Seller’s premises, will be at the cost and sole responsibility of the Buyer.
  • The Buyer agrees to have the puppy’s hips x-rayed and the films examined by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP before the puppy is 36 months old.  The Seller will refund $50 of the original purchase price when a copy of the results of the x-rays is received.  If the puppy is diagnosed with crippling hip dysplasia by OFA or PennHIP, the Buyer agrees to spay or neuter the puppy immediately.  The Seller will provide a full refund of the purchase price upon receiving proof of the diagnosis and spay/neutering.  Buyer releases the Seller of responsibility for results of x-rays done after the puppy is 36 months old.  (However, Seller will still refund $50 for OFA or PennHIP certification done at any time.)

 3.  Guarantee by Seller – this section guarantees present good health and sets forth terms should the puppy not be well upon arrival at buyer’s location or should it develop any hereditary defect, such as CHD

The breeder agrees that:

  • Prior to leaving the breeder, the pup will have received its first vaccination and will have been wormed and been checked by the breeder’s veterinarian and determined to be in good health.
  • An accurate 3-generation pedigree will be furnished to the buyerThe pup will be registered through the following recognized registries:_____________
  • Papers will be applied for by the breeder and delivered to the buyer after purchase of the pup.

I agree to take said pup to my veterinarian for a health check within 72 hours of receiving the pup (excluding weekends/holidays).  If any health or congenital condition affecting the pup is found during that visit, upon certification from my veterinarian, I will be given the opportunity to return the pup (at my expense) for a full refund.  The opportunity for refund of a pup due to health issues expires 10 days after receipt of pup.

 The seller warrants that:

  1.  The puppy is in good health at the time of delivery and has been immunized and treated for parasites according to the attached health record.
  2. The parents of this puppy have been certified as free of hip dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
  3. The puppy has been examined by a veterinarian, is in good health, and no congenital or genetic defects are apparent at this time.
  4. The puppy is potentially suitable at the time of delivery for the buyer’s stated purpose of _____.  Seller makes no representation that the puppy will be successful at maturity, or that the puppy is suitable for any other purpose not stated by buyer.
  5. All representations, written and verbal, seller has made regarding this puppy’s ancestry, health, temperament, and condition are, to seller’s knowledge, true and correct.
  6. If this dog develops congenital hip dysplasia rated moderate or severe by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals prior to ____, (this date should be 28 months after the puppies’ birthday, so that buyer will have 4 months to get x-rays after the puppies turn 2 years old) seller will refund purchase price to buyer.
        • Dysplasia secondary to injury does not fall under this clause.
        • Seller’s liability is strictly limited to the amount of the purchase price.

 The seller agrees to:

  1. Register puppy in buyer’s name, using buyer’s choice of call name and with the ________ kennel prefix, with the ESCR within 90 days of execution of this contract or buyer informing seller of his her name choice, whichever comes latest. Seller will pay registration fees.
  2. Inform buyer of all changes in address, telephone number and email address within 30 days of change.
  3. Inform buyer of any information about the genetic health of this dog’s relatives, at least annually or when significant information becomes available.
  4. Accept return of this puppy at any time during his or her lifetime, in the event that buyer can no longer keep the dog.
  5. Provide buyer with ongoing reasonable guidance on care and training for the lifetime of this dog.
  6. Accept return of this dog and refund buyer’s purchase price for any reason within 7 days of purchase, provided puppy is returned to seller in good health and condition, as delivered.
  7. Accept return of this dog and refund buyer’s purchase price within 72 hours if buyer’s examining veterinarian detects a congenital defect or communicable disease that was present at time of purchase.

4.  Default – this section explains what happens if the buyer defaults on any of the terms of the contract

  • Failure to adhere to any of the above points in this contract will result in the breeder’s right to reclaim the dog.
  • This agreement is made and signed by both parties to insure the well being and protection of the puppy.  If any part of this agreement is breached by the Buyer, the Seller is released from any further obligations hereunder.
  • If the Buyer violates this agreement, the Buyer will be responsible for any and all legal costs the Seller incurs while enforcing this contract.
  • The Buyer agrees that the Seller may repossess the puppy upon evidence of neglect and/or abuse at no expense to the Seller, and no refund of any monies.
  • In case of breach of provisions of (specify specific paragraphs in your contract), or (specify any other provisions), damages shall consist of immediate forfeiture of this dog to seller without compensation by seller.
  • Breach of clauses (specify specific paragraphs in your contract) shall result in buyer forfeiting ownership of this dog, plus damages amounting to $5,000 US.

5.  Right of First Refusal – this section deals with what must happen if the Buyer decides to transfer the puppy to another person.  It often includes a monetary penalty of some sort

  • In the event that the Purchaser is unable to keep the dog or provide an appropriate home in accordance with this agreement, the dog will be returned to the Breeder (with no refund of purchase price).  Purchaser agrees to notify the breeder if any such contingency arises and will not abandon the dog to a shelter or sell or give the dog away.  If dog is found to have been sold or given away without Breeder’s knowledge, Breeder will take legal action and original Purchaser will be responsible for all legal expenses incurred.
  • Should Buyer choose not to keep said dog within the first year following purchase, the dog will be returned to Breeder at Buyer’s expense or placed with a new owner with Breeder approval.  Should circumstances arise in which the Buyer cannot keep the dog after the first year, it is agreed that the Breeder be given the first right of refusal at a price not to exceed initial purchase price except in the following circumstance: if Buyer can demonstrate that the dog has either been trained to a level of competency in livestock work or been certified as a Search and Rescue dog, cost may be adjusted up to two hundred dollars above purchase price to reflect that training.
  • Transference of ownership of said dog to anyone outside of Buyer’s immediate family must be approved by the Breeder.
  • If, at any time, I cannot or choose not to keep this pup, I will notify the breeder and give her first opportunity to take the pup back.  If the breeder agrees to a relinquishment of the pup to another party, that party must sign a separate contract with the breeder before the buyer is released from their contractual obligations.

6.  Breeding – this section deals with conditions under which the dog may or may not be bred.  It might contain a spay/neuter requirement

  • Bitches which are purchased as family companions and dogs which are judged not to be or show and breeding quality should be spayed/neutered when they near maturity, before nine months of age.  The breeder will rebate to the purchaser one third of the purchase price, less the non-refundable deposit, upon receipt of a certificate of spay/neuter from a qualified veterinarian, provided that the dog has not previously been used for breeding.
  • Breeding prerequisites: Buyer agrees that this dog will not be bred until after the dog has proven to be sound and an excellent representative of the breed.  If the animal in question is a bitch, Buyer agrees that breeding shall be no more frequent than every other heat cycle, or no more than one back to back cycle with a one year rest period before again breeding.  Should the Buyer violate these requirements, the Buyer acknowledges that Breeder’s right to repossess the animal that this contact pertains to and, if the animal is a bitch, any and all offspring derived from the breeding in question. There will be NO refund of ay monies paid and placement of the animal and any of its offspring will be at the Breeder’s discretion.
  • Buyer agrees that the puppy will not be used for breeding purposes until he/she has been evaluated for the presence of Hip Dysplasia, through OFA or PennHIP screening, and then bred only to another registered English Shepherd.  If Hip Dysplasia is present, the puppy should not be used for breeding purposes and should be spayed or neutered.
  • The buyer agrees to:
    1. Refrain from breeding this dog prior to the age of 24 months
    2. Refrain from breeding this dog prior to the issuance of a Fair, Good, or Excellent hip rating from the OFA, or a PennHIP DI below the breed median with no evidence of DJD.
    3. Exercise due diligence to prevent this dog from breeding prior to 24 months of age and issuance of an acceptable hip rating.
    4. Neuter this dog within 60 days of receiving the rating in the event that the dog fails to rate a Fair or better from OFA, or a DI below the breed median.
    5. Refrain from breeding, and neuter this dog in a timely manner, should he be diagnosed with any genetic or possibly genetic condition that substantially affects his quality of life, or has the potential to substantially affect the quality of life of his descendants.
    6. Buyer may have this dog neutered at any time after ____ (a date representing the age after which the breeder is comfortable having buyer neuter the puppy), at his own discretion.  No portion of this contract should be construed to prohibit buyer from having this dog neutered after _____ months of age.

7.  Buyer’s requirements – how the puppy must be cared for and maintained

  • Purchaser agrees to maintain the dog in a humane environment and properly train and care for it.  Specifically, the dog will be properly licensed and inoculated against rabies, distemper, parvovirus and other communicable diseases as recommended by a qualified veterinarian.  The dog will not be allowed to roam and will be socialized and obedience trained appropriately.  Breeder strongly recommends permanent identification by tattoo or microchip.
  • The Buyer agrees to maintain preventative health care of the puppy including, but not limited to: inoculations, internal as well as external parasites, heartworm preventative medication.
  • Buyer must keep the puppy in fit weight and condition.  If puppy is found to have been in a continuous overweight condition or subjected to excessive confinement without adequate exercise, the guarantee in this contract regarding hip dysplasia is null and void.
  • Buyer agrees that he/she shall enroll in and COMPLETE an obedience class and provide additional proper socialization opportunities for the puppy.
  • The Buyer agrees to notify the Seller of the time and circumstances of the puppy’s death.
  • The Buyer agrees that the puppy will NOT be left alone in a backyard or kennel and will not be chained or “tied out”.  The Buyer agrees that the puppy will reside at the home of the Buyer.  The puppy is sold with the understanding that he or she is to go to select homes, be socialized properly and become a valued member of the family.
  • The Buyer agrees to take proper safeguards for the care and comfort of the dog sold herein, including but not limited to access to a safe outdoor area, proper shelter, adequate feeding, daily exercise and proper socialization with people and other animals.
  • I agree to maintain the pup in good condition, including regular veterinary care, a good diet, proper exercise and a clean, safe environment.
  • The Buyer agrees to keep the Seller updated on the puppy’s progress by means of pictures, emails or calls.  This will help the Seller to continue to evaluate the litter as they get older.  The Seller agrees to keep the Buyer updated with news from the other litter members.
  • The Buyer agrees to notify the Seller of any hip x-ray results done on the puppy.  Knowing the “hip health” of this line’s offspring will help the Seller make future decisions on breeding stock.
  • The buyer agrees to:
  1. Have the puppy examined by a licensed veterinarian within 48 hours of delivery, and inform the seller of any significant or abnormal exam results within 24 hours.
  2. Provide appropriate training, socialization, nutrition, and veterinary care consistent with the written and verbal guidelines provided by seller.
  3. Maintain this dog for the purpose indicated to seller, under humane conditions, and in accordance with all applicable laws.  Never use or allow this dog to be used for any illegal purpose.
  4. Inform seller of any health condition that this dog develops that may be genetic or congenital in nature, within 30 days of diagnosis, and inform seller, within 30 days of this dog’s death, of the date and cause of death.
  5. Inform seller within 48 hours if this dog should be lost, stolen, or missing.
  6. Return puppy to seller in the event that he can no longer keep him/her, at any time during puppy’s lifetime.  Buyer agrees that this dog will not be sold, given away, surrendered or transferred to any person not party to this contract without the written consent of the seller and execution of a new contract between seller and the dog’s new owner.  Buyer agrees to inform his/her heirs of this provision in the event he/she predeceases this dog.
  7. Inform seller and offer to return this dog if at any time he/she is considering euthanasia for any reason other than incurable illness/injury or unrelieved pain.
  8. Pay all transport costs incurred to return dog to seller or her designated agent.
  9. Never attempt to register this dog with the American kennel Club or Canadian Kennel Club.  Never attempt to obtain an indefinite listing privilege (ILP) number for this dog with the AKC or CKC.  Never attempt to register this dog with any entity as a different breed, or compete in any sport as a different breed.
  10. Never enter this dog in conformation competition for championship points, or any conformation competition.  Seller may provide buyer with written permission to present this dog for conformation evaluation / breed survey sponsored by the English Shepherd Club or another organization, should such evaluations become available at a future date.
  11. Have this dog radiographed and evaluated for congenital hip dysplasia no later than _____ (a date 28 months after the puppies’ birthday, as above) and communicate the results to seller within 15 days of receipt. (Note: there could be terms added for waivers of this requirement, for example, puppies who receive preliminary x-ray evaluations when they are spayed/neutered, etc.)
  • Hip evaluation shall include evaluation and rating by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and/or evaluation and rating by the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).
  • If this dog is evaluated by the OFA, buyer will select the open database option and allow dog’s results to be published.
  • If this dog is evaluated by PennHIP, buyer will forward a photocopy of the report to seller and allow seller to publish results.
  • PennHIP evaluation will satisfy the terms of this contract if conducted after_____ (a date 12 months after the puppies’ birthday).  OFA evaluation will satisfy the terms of this contract if conducted after _______ (a date 24 months after the puppies’ birthday).

The buyer attests:

  1. All representations he / she has made to seller, written or verbal, are true and correct, to the buyer’s knowledge.  Substantial misrepresentation by buyer will constitute grounds for ownership of this dog to revert to seller.
  2. Buyer has never been charged, convicted or pleaded no contest to any charge of cruelty to an animal or child, in any jurisdiction.  Any prior or future charges of this nature will constitute grounds for ownership of this dog to revert to seller.

8.  Protection from puppy mills and pet shops

  • The Buyer agrees that he/she is not acting as or in part of, an agent in the purchase of the puppy and that the Buyer will not sell the puppy or any of his or her progeny to any agent, broker or pet store.

 9.  General conditions – language making it clear that this agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties and that any changes must be made in writing and signed by both parties.  It should also provide guidance on notification in the event of disputes.  This should be the very last clause of the contract.  You should also consider putting it in bold and/or larger print.  You can see that the note above suggesting that address information for both parties be included in the contract is explained, at least in part, by the requirements of this section

  • This contract represents the entire agreement between Breeder/Seller and Buyer and supersedes any and all prior agreements whether oral or written.  The terms of this contract may only be changed through a writing signed by both Buyer and Breeder/Seller.
  • In the event of any dispute between Buyer and Breeder/Seller arising out of this contract, written notice shall be delivered within a reasonable time to the other party at the address set forth above via certified mail, return receipt requested.

10.  Dispute Settlement – this section says that the contract is subject to your state’s laws, and not the laws of the state where the buyer resides.  It is recommended that the puppy is delivered in the state whose laws you want to apply

  •  This contract is executed under the jurisdiction of ________, which also has jurisdiction in case of breach by either party.
  • Buyer agrees to pay all legal costs incurred by seller necessitated by enforcement of the provisions of this contract.

11.  General Releases of Breeder – this section releases the breeder from claims after the initial return period.  This language is also found in #3 above.  If the Breeder makes any representations in the contract regarding health and temperament and/or gives a health or temperament guarantee of any type, then they should include in the health and temperament provisions an express statement of the timeframe to which the representations apply (number of months) and that after the passage of that time frame the Breeder is released from responsibility  (an example sentence follows: The Buyer releases the Breeder/Seller from all responsibility for health and/or temperament issues upon the puppy reaching 36 months of age.)  The following paragraph is more general, and should be able to stand alone and work in any agreement. 

  • Under no circumstances shall Breeder/Seller be liable at any time for injury or damages to person or property caused by Puppy to Buyer or third parties and Buyer shall defend and indemnify Breeder in relation to any and all claims made against Breeder/Seller as a result of such injury or damages.