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What You Need to Know About a Breeder's Contract

By: Joan Paylo

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The contract that you sign when you buy your dog from a breeder is much more than a simple bill of sale. It guarantees your rights and the seller's rights in the transaction, sometimes for the life of your pet. It is also a meaningful document in the history of generations in your dog's family line.

A written breeder's contract can take many forms; its stipulations can be negotiated between you and the breeder. Many factors come into play – whether you intend to show your dog, for example, or past experiences either of you has had in owning a purebred dog.

A responsible breeder is more than happy to discuss every aspect of your dog's future with you, to ensure that he's putting the dog into a good home. But even if the two parties are best of friends, a comprehensive contract helps guarantee they will remain so.

Bill of Sale

The bill of sale, or proof that you have paid the breeder or his agent for your dog, may contain some clauses required by law. Certain states, for example, require that a breeder or pet store take a pet back and refund your money if the pet becomes ill within 48 hours from the time of purchase. Before you pay anyone for a dog, review your state's or municipality's laws concerning pet sales.

AKC Registration Application

The breeder's contract must guarantee that your dog qualifies for registration. In the United States, registration with the American Kennel Club is the most common proof of pure breed. The AKC, however, recognizes over 150 dog breeds, while the Continental Kennel Club recognizes 444 plus some crossbreeds. A few other organizations, such as Dog Registry of America, also track purebred lineage. Reputable breeders won't hesitate to answer any questions you have about registering your dog. Still, before reaching a final agreement, it's best to check rules and regulations on the Web site of their breed registration organization.

The American Kennel Club requires breeders to keep complete records and do a fair amount of timely paperwork. A breeder must register each litter with the AKC, listing the registration numbers of each parent, as well as clearly distinguishing each member of the new litter.

Once the litter is registered and the puppies are old enough to part from their mother, the seller must give you a properly completed AKC registration application. This application must contain the breeder's signature as well as the dog's full breeding information, which includes:

  • Breed, sex and color of the dog
  • Date of birth
  • Registered names (and numbers) of the dog's sire and dam
  • Breeder's name

    It's up to you to complete the application and send it in with a fee.

    The AKC warns that as the buyer, you are responsible for submitting your dog's registration. They caution you to think twice before buying a purebred dog without an accompanying AKC application. Although it takes a few weeks for a breeder to obtain one after the pups are born, the process allows plenty of time for the application to arrive if the breeder is prompt and efficient. If your breeder cannot produce a promised AKC application at the time of sale, you must at least get a signed statement containing all the information listed above to submit to the AKC.

    Remember that just because the AKC or other breed organization certifies your dog's breed, it cannot guarantee your dog's health or how closely it meets the highest standards for the breed's physical conformation. It's still important for you to do your homework in picking a reputable breeder in the first place.

    Added Clauses

    Once the basic provisions of a minimal health guarantee and lineage are included, either party can add provisions to the breeder's contract.

  • Health. Many breeders want to follow your dog's health and agility throughout her life so they can trace any problems or strengths in her lineage, such as hip dysplasia, personality problems or other hereditary defects. You may find that your breeder is willing to guarantee good natural health in your dog for one or two years. In return, he may ask you to seek prompt veterinary care any time your dog exhibits an unusual health problem. Occasionally, a breeder will even require you to give him a necropsy report if your dog should die without a veterinary diagnosis.

  • Reproduction. Unless you buy your dog to compete in shows, your breeder could require that you spay or neuter your pet. Or, a clause in the contract could specify that you will neuter your pet at some point in the future, if the breeder determines that your adult dog does not exhibit the best standard characteristics of the breed. The contract also might specify that you will not breed your dog until she is 2 years old, after many genetic flaws have had a chance to manifest themselves.

  • Title or show dogs. An entire set of rules governs the breeding and purchase of dogs that are to be raised to compete as champions. Briefly, you may require a guarantee from the breeder that your dog will be fertile and free from hereditary defects. Your breeder could require that you show the dog for a specified amount of time before breeding her.

  • Finding a new home. Your breeder's contract could require that you notify him if you have to give up your dog. Besides having wide contacts with trustworthy people who might be interested in adopting your dog, the breeder wants to be sure he can follow your dog through life. Breeders often remain so involved in the lives of their dogs that they themselves will care for your pet if you can no longer keep her, or if you must be away from home for a long time.

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