Ajax Loader Gif

For most of us the sale or purchase of a dog is like parting with or receiving a new family member. Disagreements over contract terms for the sale of pets or show dogs create the same kind of problems that you find in family law among humans. All of the emotions and tension surrounding a divorce or custody battle can show up in a court fight over a dog contract.

Many breeders do not pay enough attention to the contracts they use (or don't use) when they offer a dog for stud or sell puppies. While many do use a contract, they often have not explored all the alternatives to ensure they are fully protected.

Similarly, many buyers do not realize fully the degree to which they are binding themselves legally when then sign a show or breeding contract.

Contracts create obligations for and protect both the seller and the buyer by clarifying the rights and obligations of each with respect to the other. A contract should be used for each stud service or sale of a puppy. Anytime you take or give money, even if it's a binder or option to buy, the agreement should be in writing.
Generally a contract may be either oral or written. However, the law usually requires a written contact for the purchase of something over a specified value - usually $500. therefore, written contracts are required for the sale of most dogs. A written document protects the buyer by explaining the conditions of the sale. Many breeders have different terms for selling a dog or a bitch and different terms for selling potential show prospects. It is important to the buyer and the seller that the terms are clear.

It protects the seller by serving as evidence that the buyer was told the things contained in the contract. If there is a written contract, it is more difficult for the buyer to claim he or she didn't know or didn't understand what he or she was supposed to do or not to do.

There are stories of buyers who come back years later saying the dog is ill and want the seller to replace it or who insist the seller agreed to sell a specific puppy when all the seller agreed to was to sell a puppy.

Although anyone can sue anyone else for any reason (even if they can't win), a written contract makes it easier to determine what was bargained for and provides a defense if an unreasonable person tries to pressure you into something you did not agree to. The contract can only be enforced in court, but having signed it will make some people want to abide by it for moral reasons, making it easier to get what you bargained for. There is some magic in having your deal written.

This is written based on the contract laws of New York, but the laws of other states generally do not differ greatly. However, this is an evolving area of law, so you should check with a local lawyer to see if any special laws or court decisions in your area require modifying the terms of the contracts suggested.
Each contract must contain certain critical elements for it to be valid and enforceable. For example, in most jurisdictions under the Statute of Frauds, a contract for the sale of a property (and the law considers a dog only that) worth more than $500 must be in writing to be enforceable. While you and the buyer can keep to an oral contract for more than $500 if you want to, it cannot be enforced in court.

Each contract must identify what it is about in enough detail that it is not ambiguous. It can be for the sale of a specific puppy, for any available puppy from a litter, or for a puppy from a specific breeding to take place in the future; however, the contract must either identify the puppy apart from its littermates or identify the litter, what "available" means, and what limitations apply.

The contract must state the price for the puppy. In legal terms, this is the consideration for the contract and is essential for a valid contract. Money is not the only consideration; anything else of value exchanged for the puppy counts. Thus, stud rights on a male or breeder's rights on a bitch are part of the consideration for the contract, even if no money changes hands. This is important, since without consideration, there is no contract.

Although the contract terms and language I recommend may appear overly restrictive, remember that you can always agree not to enforce your rights; you can't manufacture legal rights which are not contracted for. Thus, although the contract gives the buyer 72 hours to have the dog examined by a Veterinarian and to notify the seller within another 24 hours if there is a problem, you can always agree to allow more time to return the dog if you want to and the situation makes that the right thing to do. If you want the change to be binding, it must be written into the contract. Some states have laws governing the sale of dogs which vary the rights contained in the contract.
The language puts the buyer on notice that he or she has a responsibility and if it is not met, there are consequences. We have not lost a sale because of the language in the contracts. In fact, we would prefer to lose a sale to someone who would not agree to a written contract (with some agreed-upon modifications), rather than have a potential problem down the road.

The language should be simply written and easy to understand. This does not mean leave anything out, but don't make it so difficult that most people will need a lawyer to understand it. Our contracts are written to be understandable by anyone with a tenth grade education. Clear language with detailed terms show that there was a meeting of the minds as to the contract, another essential for contract validity.

Each contract contains a statement that the contract contains the full agreement between the buyer and seller. This is known as a "merger clause" and is intended to minimize the chance that either party will claim that there was an oral agreement which changed the terms of the written contract. The merger clause makes the contract, and nothing else, the full agreement of the parties. Of course, if you want to you can incorporate other documents into the contract by reference. For example, if you both want to you could agree that the terms of a letter written from seller to buyer dated August 5, 1999 are incorporated into the contract.

Finally, all blank spaces in the contract are filled in and initialed and the contract is signed by both parties and dated. T his is the final step to make the contract legally binding.
The seller should be sure of the language used in any contract he or she offers to a buyer. If this is the seller's contract, drafted by him or her, in case of a dispute between the seller and the buyer, any ambiguous language in the contract will be interpreted by a court in the favor of the buyer. Therefore, it is a good practice to conduct actual negotiations with the buyer over the terms of the contract so that it is the contract of both parties.

The seller should be sure to read the contract in its entirety and have someone unfamiliar with breeding read it to determine whether it is unclear in any way. This is another reason to have a lawyer (possibly a Club member) review the contracts before you use them. It is easier to redraft a contract before it is signed than to fight about the meaning of the language if a problem arises.

If you want to modify the contract language based on your discussions, you can either write a new contract (easier if you have it all on a computer) or write the changes into the contract and have both the seller and the buyer initial each change before signing the contract. You then will be bound by the modified language. If you write in and initial changes, it will be easier to demonstrate that the contract was the result of true negotiation between the parties.

The buyer should ask any questions about anything in the contract which is unclear and take it to a lawyer if he or she is not sure about something. Once the contract is signed, it is evidence of your agreement to all of its terms, so don't sign it until you are sure you understand what you are signing.

Just remember that any specific term can be altered before the contract is signed to reach whatever goal you have in mind.
We use a basic Contract for Sale in all situations, integrated with variable language as needed. This contract sets the terms for the sale and provides the seller and the buyer with certain protections. You can change or modify any of the suggested terms to meet your individual needs; just be sure you understand the impact of the change on your rights and obligations.

The contract builds on the model of the option. It first establishes the price for and the identity of the dog being sold. Remember, no contract is valid unless it sufficiently identifies the subject of the contract and sets forth the consideration for the contract. Identification includes the sire, dam, whelping date, litter or individual AKC registration number (as appropriate), sex and a sufficient description to distinguish the puppy from its littermates. Attaching a photograph, if available, if a good idea to solidify the identification.

The contract then says that no one else has any right to the dog. Therefore, you should use this contract only when you are ready to sell.

It lists the shots given the puppy, provides the buyer with an opportunity to return the dog within a specified time if it does not pass an examination by a Veterinarian and makes failure of that health screening the only reason to cancel the contract.

The contract reserves the seller's right to repurchase the dog, rather than have the buyer sell to someone else and sets forth the arrangements to secure transfer of the registration after the sale.

The contract next contains the merger clause, saying that if it's not in the written contract, it isn't part of your agreement. Of course, it does all this a little more formally. It ends with the standard to date and sign the contract.
Our contract identifies the stud, the bitch, and the amount of the stud fee. It says that the owner of the bitch will use either progesterone testing or smears to estimate the fertile period. If the bitch is brought to us for each breeding, they need to notify us at least 48 hours before the first breeding. If she is staying with us between breedings, she is to be brought within 48 hours of the start of her season for maximum success in the breeding.

It specifies how many times the bitch will be bred and provides for rebreeding for free in her next season if she has no live puppies. Some breeders prefer to offer rebreeding only if the bitch doesn't take.

The owners of the dog and the owners of the bitch both certify that their dogs have no medical or hereditary problems which would impair the breeding.

The owners of the bitch agree to permit us to buy, at the going rate, any puppy after they (and the bitch's breeder, if they have rights) make their pick(s). While we may not exercise this right often, it's good to have it as insurance - in case you see a puppy in the litter that you think will become perfect for your breeding program. We've never had the owner of a bitch object to our interest in their litter. Finally, it contains the required merger clause, date and signatures.
A rider is a supplement to a contract which is incorporated into, and becomes part of, the contract. In order to provide for flexibility without requiring several long, repetitive contracts for different situations, several riders can be added to the basic contract. If you use a computer, the language can just be inserted into the appropriate place within the existing contract.
If you use separate riders, each rider begins with a statement that the terms of the rider are part of the consideration for the contract. This makes the rights contained in the rider integral to the contract for sale. It also states that in case of any conflict between the terms of the rider and the terms of the basic contract, the terms of the rider will take precedence and in case of conflict among riders (if there is more than one), the rider with the highest number will control.

The riders (or additional sale-specific clauses) discussed include riders for continued use of the dog as a stud, co-ownership of a male, breeder's rights for a bitch, and an agreement to show. Other riders can be used to meet other needs, e.g., an agreement not to breed the dog.
The first contract needed for the sale of puppies is probably the Option to Buy, which serves as a receipt for the money paid for the option (a down payment) and presents the conditions of the option. It is a contract that obligates the breeder to sell and the buyer to buy unless certain defined conditions come to pass. It is used when the seller may want to sell to the buyer, but may not be able to promise a sale yet.

The contract should say that it is an option to buy and specify both the payment for the option and the full payment price if the sale goes through to establish the legal consideration for the contract.

The contract then identifies what is being sold (e.g., a particular puppy or the next available puppy from a specific litter, a puppy bitch from a litter to be bred, etc.). Be particularly careful that when a specific puppy (or pick) is listed, all those with prior rights to the puppy (or pick) are also listed.

For example, the seller shouldn't agree to sell a puppy from a litter subject to breeder's rights or where they have promised the first pick to someone else, unless that is made clear in the option. Otherwise, there may be a contract to sell the identical puppy to more than one person. This is, of course, not a good idea and a recipe for a lawsuit.

There is more freedom for both parties if a particular puppy is not specified, only the rights to obtain a puppy from the litter after others (e.g., you, another breeder, etc.) have chosen. However, there are times that the seller will really want to offer a particular puppy if someone else doesn't take it or the buyer will want only that puppy if it doesn't go to someone else first.

One of the most important terms lists those who have prior rights to the puppy specified in the option. This lets the buyer know there is no firm deal and that others may take the puppies. It sets a time limit for the seller to let the buyer know whether the prior right is being exercised by someone else and to let him or her know the puppy is or is not available.

Only the people listed in the option are entitled to the puppy (or pick from the litter) ahead of the buyer. The contract establishes that if the other person takes the dog, the buyer gets his money back and the seller doesn't have to sell him or her anything. If the other person does not take the dog, the buyer must purchase the puppy or lose his down payment and the seller must sell that dog to him.

The option obligates the buyer to sign the seller's contract for sale and establishes that you both have discussed and read it prior to signing the option. The buyer explicitly agrees that the terms of the contract for sale are acceptable. This will make it less likely for problems to arise over the contract terms when the time comes to sign the contract.
Finally, it says that all blanks have been filled in and initialed, that the contract is the full agreement between the two of you, and provides a place for the date and signatures. This is to prevent either party from later claiming the agreement was something different from what was in the option.
When a show prospect is sold, the seller really does want it to be shown if it turns out. By having a clear rider defining the obligations of the buyer, it is more likely that this promising dog will be seen in the ring.

This rider starts by having the buyer agree to show the dog in conformation or obedience. It also gives the seller the right to evaluate the dog periodically to see if it is a good show prospect and to decide if it should be shown.

If the seller thinks it is showable, the contract requires the buyer to train the dog for conformation or obedience under your guidance, enter a specific number of matches and shows, and make the dog available for any futurities you have entered. The buyer agrees to continue showing the dog to its Championship or obedience title or until you realize you made a mistake and say "enough."

The buyer is, of course, free to show the dog even if the seller thinks it shouldn't be shown. While a seller could structure a contract to permit him or her a veto on showing, it is probably not worth going to court over - and that's where you would have to take it. Of course, if you have a dog you don't want to have shown, it can be sold on a limited AKC registration. If the dog is sold on a full registration, the buyer wants to show and it's really not a show dog, the buyer will quickly find out. In fact, in our experience, it is the buyer with the good dog who needs the inducement to show when they realize that they won't be winning every show or getting a ribbon every time out.

The rider goes on to say that if the buyer does not show the dog personally, either the seller or a professional handler can show the dog, with the buyer paying the costs for entries and handling.
All our contracts for selling males have a rider permitting us to breed to the dog a no cost, unless the dog is sold on a limited registration. This rider is for "insurance." We have all known people (surely not any of us!) who sold the pet puppy who turned out to be fantastic and the best they ever bred. There are also cases where the dog the seller kept for breeding may die prematurely and the dog sold is the only route to the bloodlines. With this rider, the seller's options are reserved in the future.

This rider gives the right to use the dog at stud for bitches owned, co-owned, or leased by the seller without charge. Since the buyer may not be interested in or knowledgeable about breeding, it also provides that the seller will handle the breeding.
At some time a seller may want to co-own a dog he or she has bred and sold (e.g., to retain more control over the dog or to be listed as a breeder on the first litter). In addition to retaining stud rights for the seller's bitches, this rider makes it clear that the costs of owning the dog are the buyer's, even though the seller co-owns the dog. The seller may want to agree to pay some costs or none at all. It all depends on what the parties want, their relationship, and what deal is finally made. Whatever the arrangements, having the division of costs spelled out will reduce the chance for misunderstandings in the future.
The contract for co-ownership and breeder's rights for a bitch is very detailed, but only as detailed as it needs to be to ensure that all required terms are clearly set forth and are understandable to the buyer. Taking short cuts to reduce the size of the contract can lead to problems down the road, especially when the bitch is going to a non-breeder or first time breeder.

This contract lets the buyer know what rights the seller has with respect to breeding the bitch (right to select the stud, number of picks, when picks will be made, what happens if there are too few puppies to pick, and the use of the kennel name as a prefix) and what obligations he or she has (can't breed, or spay without your permission, timing of breeding, raising the litter, need for shots, cost of breeding and registration). I t also tells the buyer when he or she will get sole ownership of the bitch.

At times, if the buyer does not feel comfortable raising a litter, and this can be a real problem in Bulldogs, we will agree to raise the litter. In that case, the buyer agrees to turn the bitch over to us two weeks before the expected delivery date and to leave her with us through the fifth week after whelping. Since in most contracts the buyer will raise the litter, this is rarely used by us.

Finally, the rider sets forth liquidated damages for failing to follow the contract. Liquidated damages are used when it is difficult to assess the actual damages. This is exactly the situation with the breach of a breeding contract. Damages can be caused by different kinds of breaches, e.g., failure to consult you on the stud, failure to give you the picks, failure to use your kennel name in the registered prefix, etc. The resulting damages are not just the price of the puppies times the number of picks, since factors like the future production of bitches or stud fees earned by dogs, loss of Champion offspring, damage to your breeding program, failure to attach your kennel name to outstanding specimens, etc., all have significant consequences, but for which the value is difficult to determine exactly. The consequences of a breach of contract are so potentially severe, that the seller wants it clear to the buyer what it will cost them for violating the contract.

For example, if we were to use this in our contract, the buyer agrees that if he or she breeds without our permission and choice of the stud, we can either take the picks we are entitled to or he or she will pay us three times the purchase price of a puppy as liquidated damages to compensate us for each pick we don't get.
Be careful that you do not use punitive damages, since courts do not like punitive damages in a contract. Actual liquidated damages can be high enough to make the cost to the buyer of violating the contract enough so that he or she has an incentive to uphold the contract terms. After all, that's all the seller wants - a puppy from the approved breeding. The seller wants to be sure to get what was bargained for.

This is the only contract in which we put damage clauses. While damage clauses could be put in the other contracts, we chose not to.

As a practical matter, these terms are only useful if you go to court to enforce the contract. However, it's better to have them in the contract and have to argue about why the buyer didn't follow the contract requirements than to have to establish that and the amount of your damages too.