Pet Purchaser Protection/Puppy "Lemon Laws" (2022)

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Brief Summary of Pet Sales
Rebecca F. Wisch (2005; updated 2010)

Pet Purchaser Protection/Puppy "Lemon Laws" (1)

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Legal issues concerning the sale of pets start with twoquestions: is there a specific sales contract that sets out certain terms of the saleand are there any state laws governing pet sales? Contract law will always apply to the sale of companion animals because the purchase itself constitutes a contract. A seller offers a dog or cat for sale, a buyer accepts the offer, and then pays the seller a determined sum of money. If the seller is a merchant (discussed below), then a buyer of these “goods” has some additional rights if the pet is unfit in some way. While distilling the purchase of what is essentially a new family member down to contractual obligations may seem calloused, it is important for buyers to understand the process. Companion animals, while loved by their owners, have no independent legal status in this country and instead are governed by contract and commercial transaction laws. In fact, due to their unique and valued status, many states have added further laws that protect buyers of companion animals and regulate the pet industry.

All purchasers of dogs from merchants (breeders, retail pet stores, and individuals who routinely sell dogs) are protected their states’ Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). The UCC is essentially a part of state law that governs all sales and business transactions. Not only does the UCC provide some uniformity and stability to this area of law, but it also describes the rights and responsibilities of buyers and sellers. With the sale of companion animals, the UCC’s provisions concerning the sale of goods is at issue. Dogs, cats, and other companion animals are deemed “goods” under the UCC. This legal term, while not accurately reflecting the true value we place upon these creatures, gives buyers certain legal remedies.

With any sale of goods by a merchant comes an implied warranty of merchantability. This warranty provides that the goods a merchant sells are fit for their ordinary purposes for which the goods are used. In other words, the heels of shoes must not break off under ordinary wear, the back of a chair must not break when one sits down, and toothpaste must not contain shards of glass. With companion animals, the issue of what constitutes “fit for ordinary purposes” is not so clear. This will depend on why the dog was purchased (i.e., was it as a companion or for specific breeding or hunting purposes) and sometimes on the breed of the dog itself. For example, one New York court found that a “teacup” Maltese dog who was three pounds above the breed’s upper weight limit fell into the category of a defective good. (For a more detailed discussion of implied warranties, click here .)

Buyers should be aware that an implied warranty of merchantability only applies to sales from merchants. This term means someone who deals in goods of the kind or someone who holds him or herself out to have a particular knowledge in the field. Again, this will be determined by the factual circumstances of the sale. Generally, a merchant in the pet world is limited to a retail pet shop, a breeder, or someone who routinely sells multiple litters of puppies. A neighbor down the road who has to unexpectedly sell a litter of puppies from his dog will not be considered a merchant. (For a more detailed discussion of merchants, click here .)

Should a buyer find him or herself with a “defective” dog, the first avenue is always to examine the language of the sales contract. Under general contract law, parties may limit or expand common law or UCC contractual obligations. Your contract may have an express warranty that overrides any implied warranty under the UCC. If the contract is not clear or does not change your available options, the next step may be to approach the merchant. The merchant may be willing to compensate the buyer in some fashion or even offer to exchange the animal. To most reputable merchants, reputation and word of mouth advertising are far more important thanstrictly abiding contract terms. (For a more detailed discussion of dogs as “defective goods”, click here .)

If those options fail, a buyer may want to contact a licensed attorney. He or she will inform the buyer of relevant state laws on pet purchases and common law contract remedies. State laws may provide specific remedies to buyers, including returning the animal to the store for a refund or reimbursement for reasonable veterinary expenses. Under the UCC, buyers typically are limited to what is termed “rescission and refund.” A buyer may return the dog and cancel the contract; he or she then receives his or her money back. Most of the time, a buyer will be proceeding pro se (without an attorney) in small claims court due to the low dollar amount in dispute. (For a more detailed discussion of UCC and contract remedies, click here .)

(Video) Hearing held to discuss expansion of 'Puppy Lemon Law'

An important point to remember is that several states (approximatelytwenty) have enacted laws that govern the sales of cats and dogs. (For a link to a list of these statutes, click here ). These laws specifically set out what information a seller must provide to a buyer at the time of purchase and what remedies a buyer has if a pet is sick or “defective.” Under these laws, a buyer usually has between seven and fourteen days to have a veterinarian examine a dog. If the veterinarian finds the dog is ill or congenitally deformed, the buyer then has certain remedies. Generally, the buyer can return the dog and get a refund, return the dog and select a new dog, or keep the dog and get some compensation for veterinary expenses. The time frame and remedies available depend on the specific state’s law (ten to fourteen days is the usual). Moreover, a claim under state law does not usuallybar any other claims under the UCC or common law contract actions. Buyers should also be aware that under many of these laws, sellers who intentionally or knowingly misrepresent a dog’s health or fitness may also face additional civil or criminal penalties. (For a more detailed discussion of state pet purchaser laws, click here .)

Finally, two other issues often arise with pet sales: pedigreed companion animals and pets purchased over the Internet. The most famous dog registration association, the American Kennel Club, informs readers on its website that a dog’s pedigree does not in and of itself guarantee good health. Buyers of pedigreed dogs are still protected under UCC and state laws governing the sales of pets. Additionally , some states make it an additional crime for sellers to knowingly misrepresent a dog’s pedigree or registry. General contract law and some states make it necessary for sellers to provide registration papers upon the sale of pedigreed dogs. Failure to adhere to state and contract laws governing the sale of such petsmay entitle the purchaser to rescind the contract. (For a more detailed discussion of the sale of pedigreed dogs, click here .)

The advent of technology has made it possible for dog buyers to find specific pedigreed breeds over the Internet. While this may certainly provide a convenient way to find a pet, buyers should be aware of the dangers. No state laws specifically govern Internet pet sales. Also, in the case of companies doing business in other states or even other countries, the choice of which state law applies in the event of a contract dispute is also present. Federal law is highly unlikely to apply in these cases (as the amount to get into federal court is currently at $75,000 for multi-state, or diversity, jurisdiction). The process of returning a defective pet to the company may be costly or impossible for the unhappy purchaser. The trauma of further transportation for the animal is likewise costly. Since purchasers are unlikely to inspect the premises from which they are purchasing the dogs, there is also a greater likelihood that they are buying from a disreputable “puppy mill.” (For a more detailed discussion Internet pet sales, click here .)

While the old adage of caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) still applies to the purchase of pets, many states have recognized the need to give purchasers more leverage in these transactions. Pet stores do not cater to the savvy, veterinary-schooled purchaser, but rather to the animal lover who cannot resist those puppy-dog eyes. A contract for the sale of a pet often puts the buyer in an unequal bargaining position, as he or she depends on the seller to be forthright in an animal’s health history. The UCC and pet purchaser protection laws seek to add some balance to this sometimes emotionally-weighted transaction.

“How old must a puppy be prior to being offered for sale?”
Rebecca Wisch (2006; updated 2010)

The answer to this question, like just about any question in law, depends on where you live. Approximatelyeighteen states have laws or administrative regulationsthatdictate how old a puppy must be before it is offered for sale or adopted out to an owner. Of those states with laws,all but one require that a puppy be at least eight weeks old before being offered for sale (See Pennsylvania and Nebraska , for example). Virginia mandates that a puppy be at least seven weeks old. Other states focuson the separation of the puppy or kitten from its motherin addition to specifying a minimum age. Nevada's recently amended law provides that a retailer, dealer, or operator shall not separate a dog or cat from its mother until it is 8 weeks of age "or accustomed to taking food or nourishment other than by nursing . , whichever is later." [emphasis added]. Likewise, Illinois also phrasesits law with the idea that a puppy or kitten shall not be "separated from its mother" untilthe puppy or kitten has attained the age of 8 weeks.

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(Please see the table that breaks down each law with a link to the text of the statute).

One thing that is crucial to understand with these puppy sale laws is that they may not apply to everyone. In other words, the laws may be limited to a particular class of people, such as dog breeders, kennel operators, or other animal facilities. About twelve of the eighteen states make it unlawful for any person to sell an underage puppy. The remaining states limit the provisions to pet shops, animal dealers, or breeders. Like many of the pet sale laws (generally known as “puppy lemon laws”), the focus of these laws is on curbing the distribution of puppies from unregulated sources like puppy mills rather than preventing sales by those not in the breeding business (i.e., individuals who are simply giving away an unwanted litter).

While the focus of these laws may be at curbing the phenomenon of “dealing dogs,” certain parties are sometimes excluded from these laws. As may be expected, many states exclude non-profit animal shelters or humane societies from the law’s reach. This type of exclusion becomes necessary when considering the unwanted puppies often left on the doorstep of such organizations. In addition, a few states have provisions that exclude those dealers regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) who supply dogs for research purposes. The federal AWA regulates only a specific group of people involved in dog commerce; specifically, dog dealers and exhibitors. Dealers are defined as those individuals who buy dogs to sell for research or pets, but that term does not include retail pet stores. Exhibitors are those individuals who purchase animals to exhibit or perform in circuses, zoos, carnivals, and the like. Essentially with regard to dogs, the AWA would apply to those people who raise or collect dogs to sell to universities or other research facilities for money or people who raise dogs to sell to pet stores or breeders. With those limitations in mind, the AWA regulations (the rules by which the dealers and research institutions must abide to maintain their licenses and avoid fines) state that no dog may be delivered to any transportation carrier unless it is at least eight weeks old and weaned. This provision (Sec. 2.130) excludes registered research facilities, however.

Certain parties may be excluded by default because the statute does not reach the activity. For example, many of the state statutes only apply to sales of puppies and not any transfers that do not involve any monetary or other consideration. In fact, the impetus behind nearly all of these statutes is to regulate the commerce of puppies within the state. However, Colorado , Maine , Massachusetts , and Pennsylvania include adoption and any transfer of an underage puppy within their laws. In any event, it is safe to say that most states are concerned about the supply and demand aspect of the puppy trade. States are attempting to curb the sale of immature puppies at the source. Maryland even goes so far as to make it illegal to display an underage pup so that it does not entice uninformed consumers.

As might be expected, the penalties for violation of these provisions are far from severe. About half the states make a violation of the law a criminal misdemeanor. California’s law makes it a misdemeanor to sell a puppy under the age of eight weeks as does Nebraska's . Violation of theCalifornia law can incur a fine of up to $250. Most state penalties, if even specified, range from a fine of $100 to a possible 30 days in jail. Many of the statutes make the action unlawful, but fail to describe what would happen to a person who violates the section.

What happens inthose states without such laws? This answer is less than clear. Certainly a retailer who sells a puppy not yet weaned from his or her mother and able to eat on his or her own is not acting in the best interests of the puppy. Should the puppy then die or suffer inhumanely, despite the best efforts of the pet purchaser, the retailer could conceivably face animal cruelty charges. Moreover, in those states that have enacted pet purchaser protection laws ( click here for those states), a possible claim that the merchant violated an implied warranty could be raised. Without a definitive law, the best action by a purchaser is to research the breed he or she wishes to purchase or talk to a veterinarian.

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Related articles

Every Dog Can Have Its Day: Extending Liability Beyond the Seller by Defining Pets as "Products" under Products Liability Theory , Jason Parent, 12 Animal L. 241 (2005).

Lost and Found: Humane Societies' Rights and Obligations Regarding Companion Animal Ownership , by Patricia A. Bolen, AnimalLegal & Historical Center, 2005.

The Golden Retriever Rule: Alaska's Identity Privilege for Animal Adoption Agencies and for Adoptive Animal Owners , John J. Tiemessen and Jason A. Weiner, 21 Alaska L. Rev. 77 ( June, 2004).

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FAQs

Do puppies come under the Sale of Goods Act? ›

Under the Sale of Goods Act, pets are goods. That means if you buy a puppy and it's described as a pedigree, say, when it's really a cross-breed you can claim a refund from the seller.

Can you get a refund on a puppy? ›

If you bought the pet from a private seller

So if the seller described the pet as healthy, you might have a right to a refund. If you didn't ask about the pet's health and the seller didn't tell you how healthy it was, there is nothing you can do.

Are puppy contracts legally binding? ›

Using The Puppy Contract will also provide you with a legally binding contract of sale between yourself and the breeder - giving you that added peace of mind. Buying a puppy is a big commitment - potentially one lasting 12 years or more.

Does Florida have a puppy lemon law? ›

But what if your dream dog turns out to be a sick puppy? Since 1990, Florida residents have had recourse under the so-called "pet lemon law," which guarantees owners a refund or a substitute animal if pets fall ill or demonstrate hereditary defects within certain time periods. The law's nickname usually draws a giggle.

What to do if someone sold you a sick puppy? ›

Notify the seller as soon as a vet has diagnosed the problem. Reputable dealers or breeders will often offer a refund or exchange without any legal action on your part.

Can you return a puppy to a breeder? ›

Accepting a Puppy Back is Part of the Role of a Breeder

Typically, a reputable breeder is tied to their puppies for life — contractually they typically require any puppy that needs to be rehomed to be returned to the breeder no matter the age of the pup!

How long is a breeder responsible for a puppy? ›

A breeder's responsibility exists for the whole of a dog's life so if a dog develops a breed-related problem at the age of 4 years, 6 six years or even older, an owner should report this to the breeder, breed club and Kennel Club.

What is a puppy contract of sale? ›

It contains information provided by the breeder or seller that buyers can use to make a decision on whether to buy the puppy they have seen. For breeders the contract is a record of the thought and attention they have devoted to their puppies' breeding and care.

How do I sell a puppy I just bought? ›

How To Sell a Puppy You Just Bought
  1. Speak With the Breeder First. ...
  2. Talk With Your Veterinarian. ...
  3. Place an Advertisement in Local Papers. ...
  4. Get the Word Out on Social Media. ...
  5. Create an Online Ad. ...
  6. Make Flyers To Hang in Pet Stores and Local Businesses. ...
  7. Consider Rehoming Instead of Selling.

What is health guarantee for a puppy? ›

What is a Puppy Health Guarantee. Health guarantees are a document of guarantee that the puppy for sale is free of any genetic health conditions. It should also state that they have received all of the essential vaccinations. As well as an overall health check by a vet.

What should a puppy contract include? ›

The Basics. There are a few items that should be in every puppy contract. These include the puppy's American Kennel Club (AKC) registration number, the name and registration numbers of the sire (male parent) and dam (female parent), and the purchase price of the puppy.

Are breeder contracts legally enforceable? ›

Any breeder and buyer can enforce a dog breeding contract as long as it is reasonable. Micromanaging of the buyer's care by the breeder alongside unreasonable demands are often what deems a contract unreasonable.

What is the law for selling puppies in Florida? ›

- Any puppy or kitten sold in Florida must be accompanied by an official health certificate at the time of purchse! It is illegal to sell a puppy or kitten without one. - No puppy or kitten should be sold before 8 weeks of age.

When should you return a puppy? ›

The most common time to give up a puppy is after six months, Jme Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo, an animal rescue in Redmond, Wash., tells Yahoo Parenting. The time between 6 months and 10 months is usually the tipping point because this is when a puppy will try to push boundaries, she adds.

Do you have to vaccinate puppies before selling? ›

A puppy should be vaccinated before you buy it (the first set of shots). Reputable dog breeders will not sell puppies before the age of 8 to 10 weeks. In that time, puppies should have received their first set of vaccination shots for distemper and parvovirus between 6 and 8 weeks.

Is breeder responsible for parvo? ›

There is a stigma associated with parvo. It's often seen as a “puppy mill” disease, and rightly so, as puppy mills have terrible hygiene and preventative practices. However, even the most careful, reputable, diligent breeder can have an inadvertent exposure to parvo.

Is it illegal to sick a dog on someone? ›

A dog can be used to inflict bodily injuries on a person, and therefore the use of a dog in that manner can be charged as a crime or an enhancement to a criminal charge.

Can you sue someone for selling you a sick puppy in California? ›

A: Yes, you can sue in small claims court for the purchase price of the dog and vet bills.

Should a breeder take back dog? ›

The answer is yes–a reputable breeder should always be prepared to take their puppies back at any time, so your dog will always have a safe place to live.

What are breeding rights? ›

Breeding rights cover your ability to breed and register the puppies of a bloodline born as part of the American Kennel Club (AKC) or other breeding clubs. These rights are mostly used by breeders to ensure their bloodline is developed properly when selling pups to outside parties.

What does pet only mean when buying a dog? ›

Pet-quality puppies are those that the breeder thinks will likely not grow up to be candidates for showing or breeding. They will often be sold on a limited registration, which means they can participate in all AKC events except conformation (the 50-cent word for “dog shows”), and their offspring cannot be registered.

What is a dog breeder responsible for? ›

Responsible breeders provide their dogs with a high quality of care, which includes: Providing all dogs with quality food, clean water, proper shelter, exercise, socialization and professional veterinary care. Keeping dogs clean and well-groomed. Raising dogs intended to be pets in a home environment.

What should a breeder provide? ›

A good breeder will always provide you the paperwork for your dog or cat, which must include not only breed registration papers but also paperwork from a veterinarian demonstrating that the animal has had an examination as well as all the appropriate vaccinations and dewormings.

Do I need a licence to breed one litter of puppies? ›

A breeding licence is required for anyone breeding three or more litters in a 12-month period and/or anyone that breeds dogs and advertises a business of selling dogs.

What does the male dog owner get when breeding? ›

In exchange for services, the stud owner will receive a stud fee and will usually be guaranteed the first pick of the litter if breeding is successful. The service also extends beyond just purely allowing a dam to mate with a stud.

What is a breeder contract? ›

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.

What is a non breeding contract for dogs? ›

What's a Non-Breeding Agreement? Non-breeding agreements are signed documents between a breeder and the dog owner that stipulate a dog cannot be used for breeding. The dog is still fully registered with CKC. Non-breeding agreements simply do not allow any future puppies produced from this dog to be registered with CKC.

How much should you pay for a mixed breed dog? ›

Generally, you will pay twice as much to purchase a purebred dog than a mixed breed dog. Purebred dog prices range from $300 to $10,000 depending on the breed and the breeder, while mixed breed dogs can cost around $150-$3600.

Can you sell puppies on Instagram? ›

While you may not make an official sale on sites like Facebook and Instagram, it is a great way to let others know you are a breeder who is ready to sell. You can use your social media platforms to widen your audience. You can even use this as an opportunity to discuss upcoming litters before they are born.

How can I sell my dog? ›

Post an ad on online websites, such as Craigslist or your local ASPCA. Include a picture and vital statistics, such as age, sex and breed. Many potential buyers will want to know your reason for selling your dog and whether the pet is spayed or neutered.

Are dogs considered goods? ›

Dogs, cats, and other companion animals are deemed “goods” under the UCC. This legal term, while not accurately reflecting the true value we place upon these creatures, gives buyers certain legal remedies. With any sale of goods by a merchant comes an implied warranty of merchantability.

What is the law on selling puppies UK? ›

'Lucy's Law' means that anyone wanting to get a new puppy or kitten in England must now buy direct from a breeder, or consider adopting from a rescue centre instead. Licensed dog breeders are required to show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth.

What is a puppy contract of sale? ›

It contains information provided by the breeder or seller that buyers can use to make a decision on whether to buy the puppy they have seen. For breeders the contract is a record of the thought and attention they have devoted to their puppies' breeding and care.

Is it against the law to sell a puppy under 8 weeks UK? ›

Lucy's Law was approved by Parliament on 13th May 2019 and came in to effect in England on 6th April 2020. The law makes it illegal to sell puppies and kittens under 6 months old unless the seller: has bred the puppy or kitten themselves, or. isn't a business (e.g. if they're a legitimate rescue centre.

Is selling puppies illegal? ›

This welcome law change will make it illegal for anyone other than a breeder to sell kittens and puppies commercially. From today anyone planning to buy or adopt a kitten under six months must deal directly with the breeder or an animal rehoming centre.

How do I sell a puppy I just bought? ›

How To Sell a Puppy You Just Bought
  1. Speak With the Breeder First. ...
  2. Talk With Your Veterinarian. ...
  3. Place an Advertisement in Local Papers. ...
  4. Get the Word Out on Social Media. ...
  5. Create an Online Ad. ...
  6. Make Flyers To Hang in Pet Stores and Local Businesses. ...
  7. Consider Rehoming Instead of Selling.

What questions should I ask when buying a puppy? ›

Questions you should ask a puppy breeder
  • Can I see the puppies with their mum? ...
  • How old are the puppies? ...
  • Are the puppies weaned? ...
  • How old is mum? ...
  • How many litters has mum had? ...
  • Have the puppies been wormed? ...
  • Have the puppies had any vaccinations? ...
  • Does the puppy look healthy – clean eyes, ears and bottom?

Can I return a dog I bought UK? ›

If a buyer simply changes their mind after purchase, they have no automatic right to return the dog and to require a refund (unless that's what the contract says). Unless the seller sells dogs in the course of a trade, then the principle of caveat emptor probably applies.

Should puppies be vaccinated before being sold? ›

Do puppies need vaccines? Yes! While there's debate around this in the media, any qualified veterinary professional will tell you that puppies absolutely need to be vaccinated. They should be given an initial course of vaccines, and then booster injections throughout their lifespan to ensure they stay protected.

Is it illegal to sell a puppy without vaccinations UK? ›

Lucy's Law was approved by Parliament on 13th May 2019 and came in to effect in England on 6th April 2020. The law makes it illegal to sell puppies and kittens under 6 months old unless the seller: has bred the puppy or kitten themselves, or. isn't a business (e.g. if they're a legitimate rescue centre.

What should a puppy contract include? ›

The Basics. There are a few items that should be in every puppy contract. These include the puppy's American Kennel Club (AKC) registration number, the name and registration numbers of the sire (male parent) and dam (female parent), and the purchase price of the puppy.

What are breeding rights when buying a dog? ›

Breeding rights cover your ability to breed and register the puppies of a bloodline born as part of the American Kennel Club (AKC) or other breeding clubs. These rights are mostly used by breeders to ensure their bloodline is developed properly when selling pups to outside parties.

What should a breeder provide? ›

A good breeder will always provide you the paperwork for your dog or cat, which must include not only breed registration papers but also paperwork from a veterinarian demonstrating that the animal has had an examination as well as all the appropriate vaccinations and dewormings.

Why can't puppies leave before 8 weeks? ›

Based on innumerable studies, puppies who are not properly weaned are likely to suffer from more health issues compared to the ones that stay with their mom for at least 8 weeks. Puppies who are separated too early from their mothers are generally malnourished and suffer from a weakened immune system.

Can you sell a puppy under 6 months? ›

Breeders can only sell puppies they have bred themselves, and only from the place the puppy was bred and reared. Puppies must be 8 weeks old before they can be sold or leave their mum. Puppies must be seen with their biological mum.

Is it illegal to sell a puppy without microchip? ›

It will be illegal for a breeder to sell a puppy that is not microchipped. All puppies must be microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old (unless a vet has certified in writing that a dog is unfit to be microchipped, see the below exemptions).

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