The magazine your dog would want you to read
Let the buyer beware
I HAVE been looking into the huge variety of ways that breeders handle puppy sales in New Zealand and the aftermath of such sales. During my investigation I could not help but wonder how many of the pseudo 'sales' are actually legal, and whether if tested they would hold up in a court of law. With this in mind I began to make inquiries.
I found that there are breeders who will 'sell' a female puppy at full price, but demand they get it back for a specified number of litters ... then keep all the pups from those litters and do not pay the owner for the pups, or even a stud fee for the use of the bitch which the "owners" must either give up for three or four months at each pregnancy, or take expensive care of through that pregnancy and whelping (sometimes with a vet involved) only to have not even compensation for their trouble, let alone first choice of a pup!
Another woman who contacted me bought a bitch some years ago at quite an expensive full price (over $1000). She admits she did not look at the 'contract', just signed it as she wanted the dog. She found that she owned only a half share of the dog with the breeder, who demanded to be consulted before any breeding was done and wanted the first pick of any litter (free of course). The dog was later found to have serious digestion problems, zinc deficiency and prone to rashes and bleeding stomach etc. It has cost her thousands of dollars in vet fees but the 'owner-partner' has never paid a penny towards the dog's upkeep or medical bills. The woman who has the dog says also that when she has tried to contact the owners of the dog's sire (in USA but they have visited here on occasions) they have never been available and always "will contact her later" but they never do and she has never been able to ask them if the dog's problems are genetic.
I have also been contacted by a lot of young and interested people who want to buy a good, pedigree puppy but they have come up against breeders who will not sell them a pup unless they sign a paper to say they will not show it. Is this fair? How do these young and new owners know to what level their enthusiasm for their dog will take them - surely if they 'buy' the dog it is theirs to show if they so wish? Are these breeders really so frightened of competition and afraid that someone else will make a better job of bringing up a healthy and good-looking dog than they have? One would think that such breeders would welcome new young owners into the show-ring and encourage them to compete, especially the breeders who have sold the pups to them ... it is, after all, still their name that comes up as the breeder.
At a recent show I heard a breeder say to another that she "never sells her dogs outright as she wants to be able to take them back if she doesn't like the way they are handled". This is okay if someone was being cruel or ignorant with the pup (but there are other channels open that would cover such events). But should such breeders be trusted - the mind boggles at what kind of arrangements and contracts such people make? The words "Doesn't like the way they are being handled" could cover any eventuality and is likely to mean "I want it back if it goes well at the shows". And if such breeders do attempt to take back a dog are the owners compensated for the full price paid plus the dog's board and lodgings while it was in residence? How would such a person take a dog back without legal implications?
Are such deals legal deals? If they are legal as far as the kennel club is concerned would the same be true with the commerce commission ... or even with the district courts? Especially as in all cases the 'buyers' are paying the full price for such pups and finding they are far from being the owners? Do such contracts have any legal standing - can the conditions be legally enforced or should the owners who have paid large prices for their pups just tell such breeders: "so sue me"?
What should buyers do to ensure that they have actually 'bought' their dog? Say a bitch is registered with the kennel club and later sold, do the registration papers have to be part of the sale? Or can the breeder keep the papers and sell it as a pet?
According to the NZ Kennel Club, if a dog or puppy is registered with the club and sold, the vendor must complete a transfer of the dog or pup and forward to the kennel club within 14 days of the date of sale. Upon completion of the registration formalities the NZ Kennel Club will then forward to the purchaser a certificate of ownership showing the purchaser as the owner, and a three-generation pedigree. At this point the buyer should check that all the details are correct and as signed for, so that if there is any disagreement the kennel club can be contacted straight away. If the buyer does not get such papers, then he/she needs to contact the club and find out if the papers have been forwarded by the vendor, and if not, why not?
As far as other details are concerned, there are a few official endorsements that can be placed on the dog's registration, but only WITH THE AGREEMENT of the purchaser. For an endorsement to be a legal requirement of the dog's registration the purchaser, as well as the vendor, must sign NZ Kennel Club forms agreeing to the endorsements.
There are 10 endorsements allowed by the kennel club:
- Not to be bred from
- Not to be shown (These two can be lifted later in certain circumstances)
- Not to be bred from - lifetime
- Not to be shown - lifetime (These two can never be lifted)
- Not to be bred from under specified age (12, 18, 24 months etc)
- Not to be bred from unless x-rayed for HD
- Not to be bred from unless x-rayed and scored a total of eight or less with not more than six on any one hip
- Not eligible for issue of export certificate
Any such endorsements should mean that you do not pay full price for the dog. You are buying an animal about which there are questions so buyers are advised to "be suspicious".
Numbers 8 and 9 speak for themselves of course and would not be eligible for showing anyway, let alone breeding. But for the rest I would hope that alarm bells would ring and cause a buyer to look hard into the genetics of the pedigree. Numbers six and seven are a matter of good sense and most good breeders would want their dogs to be hip scored before breeding. It probably reflects a good breeder that doesn't want his/her lines to be bred from if they are less than perfect. However, it may also be an indication that high hip scores are common in one or both of the lines and the vendor expects the scores to be high and would not want the buyer to breed from an affected animal.
Numbers one to four can reflect self-interest by the vendor - he/she does not want any competition in the showring or in the sale of pups, but such breeders are often quite happy to sell their own pups at full price to anyone who will accept the restrictions. They can also mean that the vendor expects a health or other fault to show up later in some of the siblings, as can endorsement number five.
The reasons for number 10 seem to indicate that such a dog has already been refused an export certificate. In such cases it is usually because there is a health or conformity problem and if it is visible enough to prevent export then it also would logically prevent showing and probably breeding as well if the fault is genetic.
By all means buy a pup with such restrictions if you wish. But do find out as much as possible about it before you purchase - there may be hip or elbow dysplaysia, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy (pra), cataracts, or any other genetically passed-on condition that may shorten your dog's life or at least make its life harder. You could well be paying a huge price for an unhealthy pup, where a little investigation and a thorough reading of the contract could have revealed whether you were buying a lemon ... or conversely that you were buying a healthy, well-bred pup that was not quite up to show standard.
The truth is that as long as people unquestioningly buy dogs with 'give back' clauses attached or unreasonable endorsements, then breeders will sell them at full price if they can! It is only when buyers begin to ask the questions, to read the contracts, and to expect top quality when they are paying top price, that breeders will have to respond with more information, more assurance of quality and with acceptance that a sale is a sale - not a rental or leasehold pup; and that a partnership is where BOTH owners pay equally for food, vet bills and fees of all kinds.
I hope this information has helped in some small way and given potential buyers some idea of what to expect - the Kennel Club of NZ has an 'ideal sale contract' and will fax or post you a copy if you contact them. - Elezabeth