Why do breeders have a contract?
For three basic reasons: one, to protect the buyer from an unscrupulous breeder; two, to protect the breeder from a dishonest buyer. The third and most important reason, is to protect the animal being sold.
A good contract will very clearly set out your responsibilities as a buyer, and the breeder's obligations as the seller. If there are points of concern not covered, they can be discussed and perhaps added in another clause. Should a buyer object to a particular clause, it may signal to the breeder, that this is a person you do not want to sell to.
Some potential buyers may feel the terms are too restrictive, but they must realize that every clause is there for a reason. For example, in my own case, I no longer allow the registration/sale of an animal in the name of a couple, following a separation where the kitten became the subject of a battle over marital property.
My contracts also do not allow for the transfer of ownership of a kitten/puppy.I feel that as a breeder, it is my moral and ethical responsibility to see that the animal always has a safe and caring home. Therefore, they must be returned to me if a Buyer can no longer care for them.
Breeders are not trying to control the Buyer. They are trying their best, to protect the animal. If the animal is placed in a new home, it again goes on a contract. If it is not placed, it should always have a home with the breeder.
What it comes down to is this:
If a buyer intends to care for the animal, they have nothing to worry about.
The following is a true story. And while it concerns a puppy, my kittens are sold on the same contract. This is what happens when you try your best to screen people, and end up selling to someone you shouldn't have.
On April 30, 1998, I signed a contract with Tom G. for a male Golden Retriever puppy. He picked up the puppy May 1, 1998. Mr. G's contract made very specific requirements that the dog be kept in good health and provided with vaccinations, care etc. And that it be neutered within 100 days of the sale date. This would have been August 9, 1998.
In August I contacted Mr. G. to ask how the puppy was, and to request the neuter papers, as I to register the litter. He also had not returned to me, the Canadian Kennel Club non- breeding agreement which was also part of the contract. Mr. G. assured me he had had the dog neutered at the "vet down the road" in August, and it would be no trouble to get the papers.
The first of September, I still did not have the paperwork,
and Mr. G. called to ask if he could sell the puppy. I went over the clauses
of his contract with him, specifically the ones that forbid the sale,or
placing the dog in someone else's custody, and explained that I would take
the puppy back. I requested he return the dog, that Labor Day weekend.
Mr. G. then asked if he would get his money back. I again went over his
contract, pointing out that he would get his purchase price, less the 10%
deposit, the cost of a veterinary check-up, and any
veterinary costs resulting from that including the cost of shots or neutering not already done. Mr. G. hesitated then said he would keep the dog. At the same time, I had heard from another buyer of a puppy in the same litter, who knew Mr. G's neighbours, that the dog had been a nuisance, and was allowed to run loose. And
now it was gone.
I again called Mr. G. in October, requesting his papers. He once more hesitated, said he didn't know where the papers were, but he would get them to me. I did not receive them. I called again the first week of November, 1998. Mr. G. was agressive on the phone, saying he would get the papers, and get the dog and bring him out to show me. This struck me as odd, since he was supposed to have the dog.
When I heard nothing further, I contacted one of Mr. G's neighbours, December 15, 1998 and was told they had not seen the dog in some time. The neighbour said he had no direct contact with Mr. G, but that Mr. G had told other neighbours, he had given the dog away, a breech of his contract.
At this point I contacted a lawyer to initiate legal proceedings. We first sent a registered letter demanding return of the dog under the contract terms. The letter was not picked up at the post office. A breech of contract suit was then filed with the courts, Feb.2, 1999 which gave Mr. G. 20 days to file a defense. He did not. We applied for a default judgement and I was awarded the dog.
In early March Mr. G. hired a lawyer and notified us that he had requested the court hear his application for a defense, claiming he had not sufficient time to respond to the breech suit, since he had been in and out of the city on business. While I and my lawyer felt he had time, we permitted him to file this for hearing in Supreme Court, March 22, 1999, providing he first supply us with proof of the neutering, and also present the dog to my own veterinarian for a health inspection.
On March 16, 1998; Mr. G. swore an affadavit at Quispamsis, New Brunswick, before a Commissioner of Oaths, stating "I purchased my dog Ben, who is the subject of these proceedings, in the spring of 1998 and I have grown attached to him. I do not wish to have my family pet taken from me because of my oversight and my delay in dealing with these matters."
A photocopy of the veterinary receipt for neutering was supplied. It was dated September 8, 1998, AFTER Mr. G. had assured me the dog was neutered in August, and AFTER Mr.G. asked to sell the dog. The paper was in the name of Gary McK. And Mr. Tom G.The bill included a set of annual vaccinations, which no reputable veterinarian would have administered to a puppy who had just finished a series of shots only four months before.
Two days before the Supreme Court hearing, and several hours after Mr. G. missed the veterinary appointment, his lawyer called my lawyer to tell her that the dog was dead. And had been dead for some four months.
When we appeared at the Supreme Court hearing, Mr. G's lawyer was asked by the judge, why his client did not know the dog was dead. The lawyer replied that Mr.McK. had not seen Mr. G. since the latter part of the hunting season in early November, and the dog had been struck and killed by a car later in the month. Mr. McK. had been expecting Mr. G. to visit again, so had not called him. So four months had passed in which Mr. G. did not know his dog was dead.
Mr. G. could not file a defense against a suit that was now a moot point. I had been awarded custody of the dog, but there was now no dog. The decision was set aside, and the judge awarded me $350 in costs.Both lawyers signed a discontinuance of the motion.
On October 15, 1999, the case was finally concluded, after I filed a small claims suit asking for my extra expenses in registering the remaining puppies, my lawyer's fees and damages. The adjudicator sided with the validity of the agreement, and acknowledged the puppy buyer's breech of it. In order to bring an end to a very long ordeal, I dropped all of my requests except that the legal bill be paid. That agreement was reached between the buyer and myself, in a court allowed negotiation break.
What must be realized from a legal standpoint, is that when the case was set aside, because the dog was dead, it did not mean the case could not be pursued. The discontinuing of the motion, is akin to climbing a tree part way, finding you cant' do it, and agreeing to stop. It doesn't mean you can't try again. But since the process is so expensive, I opted for representing myself in a Small Claims suit.
I am eternally grateful to our judicial system, for acknowledging the fact that a contract signed for the sale of a pet, is as valid, once the Purchaser puts their signature to it, as any other agreement or contract.
Let this stand as an explanation to buyers, as to why breeders have a
contract and why they follow them up so diligently. And also let
it be a warning to breeders, that even the best of contracts can
fail an animal. Had I initiated legal proceedings when I first knew
for certain there was a breech, this puppy would still be alive.
Copyright Carraig Birmans 1999