Information compiled by Pam Kaye
The agreement for the sale of a living animal is not like other sales agreements. Most agreements you enter into are for things like property or vehicles, and the terms and conditions are straightforward and enforceable. Breeders often build conditions, promises and restrictions into a puppy contract which cannot practically be enforced. But, even if not entirely enforceable, such an agreement puts into writing all of the things that are important to the breeder with respect to her puppies and their futures, and if both parties proceed in good faith, the agreement can serve as a written memorandum setting forth the obligations and promises of both parties to the sale.
Ask yourself some practical questions before preparing a contract. Are you willing to risk the loss of a sale of a puppy to a good home by insisting upon a penalty clause for breach of the promises in the agreement? Are the conditions you are requiring the buyer to agree to really important to you? What will you do if a dispute arises? Are you willing to go to court? Are you prepared to incur the costs?
There are a variety of options for any breeder
A lot of puppies are sold on a handshake, and a lot of those deals work out well. You may choose not to have a contract, but to rely on a verbal agreement: you and the buyer agree on which puppy at which price; you discuss who absorbs which costs; you tell the buyer the conditions under which you would want the dog returned, insist that the dog be returned, offer a refund, or offer a replacement puppy. This is a lot of detail to remember to discuss and to assume that the buyer will remember.
You may choose to have a short and simple contract, which contains only the most important items for your particular situation. You might choose to include only those things that are important enough to you that you would go to court to enforce the agreement. If what is most important to you is your ability to reclaim a puppy if it is being treated badly, passed on to another owner, bred in a way you do not agree with, etc., then that would be an item you would include in the contract.
On the other hand, you may choose to have a contract that includes everything that you insist upon and also those things you would like to see happen. Things you might not be willing to go to court about might include a requirement that you be advised of the puppy’s death, or a requirement for a certain amount of training for the puppy. Again, although such a contract might not be practical to enforce (did that puppy actually graduate from puppy class? has it ever been tied to a fixed object?), it does set forth the entire agreement between the parties, and should serve as a helpful reminder for both buyer and seller.
Whether you decide to forego a contract, write a simple one, or write a more complicated one, it should be useful to know about what other breeders do. Our plan with these three articles will be, first, to describe the contents of a typical contract in general; then, in a second article, to provide you with sample language for various terms of a puppy contract; and lastly, in a third article, to discuss puppy questionnaires, which many breeders rely on.
The basic components of a puppy contract may include:
Identification of the parties
- Sellers and buyers and their addresses and phone numbers
- Sex, color, whelping date and the names and registration numbers of the sire and dam of the pup
- Microchip number if applicable
- When payment is due and the terms
- Future considerations such as a puppy back or stud service
- Who pays for transportation costs
- What will be done about registration
- Explanation of potential rebates; these could be for such things as spay/neuter or OFA testing, and would require proof as specified
Guarantee by Seller
- Guarantee of the pup’s present good health. The seller may wish to shorten or lengthen the time within which a health claim could be made, and might wish to provide a replacement puppy rather than a refund in such a case.
- Seller generally also guarantees the pup to be free from the principal hereditary defects known in the particular breed. Again, this paragraph may be modified to shorten or lengthen time; specify the evidence required to show the defect, if it occurs; or require return of the puppy.
- Explains that the seller has the right to retrieve the puppy if the buyer defaults on any of the provisions of the contract.
Right of First Refusal
- Seller should insist on a right of first refusal to recover the puppy in the event of a contemplated sale or transfer (even as a gift) from the buyer to another. This clause is often accompanied by a monetary penalty. The amount should be high enough to inhibit the buyer from breaching this promise
- Controls the conditions under which the dog may be bred. There are a number of variations possible, depending on the breeder’s wishes. The section might include a spay/neuter requirement or specific terms and condition for breeding (OFA certification, certain age, etc.)
- Sets forth how the puppy must be cared for and maintained. Again, it can be general or very specific. It may include the penalties for failure to comply.
Protection from puppy mills and pet shops
- Tries to make sure that neither the puppy nor its descendants will end up in a puppy mill or pet shop.
- To avoid a claim that an oral promise was made, include language that this agreement constitutes the entire understanding between the parties. Specify that the only way the terms can be changed is though a subsequent writing signed by both parties.
- Provide guidance on notification in the event of disputes; the addresses listed in the agreement should be used, and parties should be responsible for keeping these up to date
- In order to keep any dispute in the state in which you reside, rather than the buyer’s state, you should indicate that the contract is deemed entered into in your state AND is subject to your state’s laws. In addition, make sure that the puppy is delivered in the state whose laws you want to apply.
General Releases of Breeder
- The breeder assumes no responsibility and the buyer releases the breeder from any claims for future veterinary or other bills, including dog bites, pertaining to the dog after the initial return period.